Alex (Bing) Marchbanks ’14, SLP ’18 Specializes in Infant Feeding and Swallowing in Niche Area of Speech-Language Pathology

When Alex (Bing) Marchbanks ’14, SLP ’18 graduated from Pacific University’s School of Communication Sciences & Disorders in 2018, she never could have imagined where her career trajectory would lead her.

She was all set to work as a speech-language pathologist in the school system or private practice, when an externship led her to Alex (Bing) Marchbanks '14, SLP 18 OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. There, she went from working with children in an outpatient setting, to inpatient acute care. In 2021, she started working in a specialty area of speech-language pathology: treating premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, with feeding and swallowing disorders.

“Often, premature infants miss the stage where they develop the ability to safely swallow and grow outside of the womb independently,” she said.

“I evaluate the safety and efficacy of an infant’s swallowing. The timing of their swallowing versus breathing is essential to help keep the baby safe and healthy. Watching feeding cues closely is a major factor in their overall experience with oral feeding.”

Evaluation and assessment usually starts after a premature infant is born and reaches around 35-weeks of gestation. The process involves calculating the appropriate flow rate from a bottle or breast, assessing endurance and stability during feeding, safe positions for feeding, and modifying feeding techniques to maintain a positive relationship with feeding for the infant, caregiver and family. Coaching and training parents and nurses also is a large part of this specialized field.

“Following cues of when to take a break, or discontinue oral feeding, allows an infant to continue to grow from a supplemental nutrition source like a feeding tube, which is crucial to an infant’s endurance and positive quality of feeding. As they grow and get stronger, their swallowing skills become more developed and they can usually take a larger volume during feeding,” she said.

“I feel really fortunate to have been given this opportunity in the NICU.”

Her commitment to the profession is unwavering. She enjoys interacting with students and assists with clinical simulations and interviews for the university’s speech-language pathology master’s degree program.

“I felt more than prepared for my career when I left Pacific,” she said.

She recalls one professor who told students to imagine all the different ways they could work on skills with a patient if they only had one ball for treatment, focusing on all the tools in their toolbelt to provide the best quality of care for their patients and clients.

“How could I use a ball to target goals involving communication, language, articulation, engagement and interaction, or sensory exploration? That’s quite challenging,“ she said.

I think that's what made me a holistic therapist, realizing that you don’t need much to accomplish many goals. Pacific’s graduate program provided me with all the skills and training I needed to be successful.

Learn more about Marchbanks as a graduate student working with adults dealing with cognitive deficits and language impairments to assist them toward a more fulfilling life.

Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023