To start with FEES you first have to take a two day course. I actually took two just to get more practice in before competency training. There are many providers that offer the class. In this post, I am not trying to convey a certain class is better than another. I haven’t taken classes with all of the providers so I can’t say for sure. This post is just about the first two day course I went to, which was Dr. Susan Langmore’s.
If you don’t know who Susan Langmore is, she is basically the creator of the FEES examination. She has published many papers on the topic of dysphagia, all of which I would recommend checking out.
So back to class. The first day was all lecture. We learned about the procedure, the equipment, and a quick review of anatomy and physiology. Hearing how to complete a FEES from the source was pretty amazing. This day went really quickly for just sitting in one spot for the whole day.
The second day was scope day. We knew it was coming, that we would be practicing (for the first time) on each other. I knew it would be fun but there was also a small feeing of impending doom.
We were split up into smaller groups and went to separate rooms to learn from mentors who are skilled in the art of FEES. I was lucky, and someone volunteered right away to be the first “scopee” and the “scoper.” The SLP started to insert the scope and within 5 seconds or so, the volunteer had a raging bloody nose and started to cry. At this point I am pretty sure that I started looking for the exit.
After that first eventful attempt, the rest were much tamer. No more blood was shed. When it came time for me to be the “scopee” for the first time, I just shut my eyes and took a deep breath and hoped for the best. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. Really.
We passed from room to room with each room adding a new skill on to the skills we had already learned. I was just about to pass the scope for maybe the final time when Dr. Susan Langmore walked in. Having to demonstrate a newly learned skill in front of arguably one of the most experienced at it is very nerve-wracking. But I pushed ahead and then I heard it…Dr. Susan Langmore complimented my manipulation of the scope. I felt like I just won the lottery.
Of course passing the scope on willing participants in generally good health is a lot easier than in the wild, but it’s a great place to start.
We finished up the class with some interpretation. This is the real meat of the class. Anyone can learn to pass a scope, but it takes our expertise to make sense of the results and to recommend a treatment plan.
So what would I recommend before your first class?
- Make sure you know your anatomy. Know the muscles and the nerves. This will help to get more out of the class instead of just trying to learn the anatomy then.
- Make sure you know your physiology. Know what should happen first, second, and last.
- It helps to have an understanding of what “normal” is in terms of swallowing.
- And lastly, get ready to have a lot of fun and meet some great colleagues.