If you’re reading this, that means you made it! You made it through the sleepless nights studying for neuro tests, writing your thesis, or taking comprehensive exams, and taking the Praxis. In case you’re not sure about what that means, let me summarize it for you: right now, you know everything you need to know to begin your career as a speech-language pathologist.
The instructors in your grad program have probably told you a million times that this is a field for lifelong learning, and they are right. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) states that lifelong learning is essential for speech-language pathologists to be able to provide the most appropriate and effective treatment possible. In one week, I will be finishing my clinical fellow year and earning my Certificate of Clinical Competence, and despite clinical fellows not being required to take continuing education courses, I have learned so much in the past year. I want to share with you the things I wish I had known before starting, so that your clinical fellowship can go as smoothly as possible.
1. You don’t have to settle for the first site you are offered - As an employee of The Stepping Stones Group, my recruiter cared less about when I started, and more about finding me a placement that worked for me. Even, and especially, if you interview with a school site, you can turn down the offer for any reason. If you are offered a placement that does not serve your preferred population, or if it is too far from home, don’t be afraid to tell your recruiter to keep looking.
2. Wait until after starting before you buy new things - My school site, and district, had everything I needed to provide treatment, from tables to assessments, to games. I had already started collecting materials from yard sales and thrift stores, but all I ended up needing was decor for my half of the speech room, incentives like punch cards and a treasure chest, and personal protective equipment. You can use your professional development allowance to pay for ASHA membership dues or speech conferences, so make use of the resources your site gives you!
3. Ask questions - I created my schedule without understanding what a typical school day looked like for the students on my caseload or their teachers. My supervisor wanted Fridays to observe me, and I could only bill for 187 out of 210 school days, so I decided to take every other Monday off. I found out that my preschoolers didn’t have school on Mondays and ended the school day an hour before other grades. This meant that, when initial and triennial evaluations came up for these students, I had to cancel other sessions. I also work with a program that structures language into their curriculum, and my role in direct speech services is typically to target articulation only. Language and social communication are my preferred areas, so the lack of diversity in my work resulted in feelings of burnout.