Congratulations! You’ve finished your graduate program and you’re ready to be a clinical fellow, speech-language pathologist! You apply to several positions that interest you, and soon enough, you have accepted your first job in a profession that you’ve worked so hard to be a part of!
I remember my first day of work. I was nervous, excited, and felt that I was truly prepared. My clinical fellowship experience was nothing short of the greatest learning experience I’ve ever had. I was forced to use the knowledge that I had gained in graduate school to make quick, clinic decisions. I was forced to quickly adjust to changes, including my CF mentor being changed half way through. The COVID-19 school closures forced me to shift my growing clinical skills from in person to using those skills to effectively provide treatment through teletherapy in a matter of weeks.
As I reflect back on my experience, the challenges that were placed upon me have made myself into a more effective, patient, and driven clinician. I am thankful for the support that my company, CF mentors, and colleagues have given me, as this transition from graduate school to a professional career was truly a roller coaster ride.
I wish I spent more time in the moment, thinking about the positives rather than the never-ending deadlines, the evaluations that needed to be completed, or the compensatory hours that had built up for many students.
I think back to the moments when I needed to take 5 minutes to close my eyes and tell myself that I am doing my very best. I think back to the moments when a colleague told me that I was making a difference in the student’s lives. I think back to each time I wanted to cry because there was never enough time in the day to complete the tasks on my to-do list.
For the incoming clinical fellows who are ready to take on the next chapter in their lives and begin their career in the world of speech-language pathology, I hope you consider these thoughts:
You’re more prepared than you think. You’ve spent years studying various disorders and best practice for assessment and treatment. Take a moment to reflect upon what you know, not what you don’t know.
Be confident. Be confident when presenting your ideas, evaluations, and goals when in meetings. You’re the professional in this field.
Do research. If you don’t know the answer..research it! The practice portal on the ASHA website is your friend, so use it!
Check for free resources frequently! Join Facebook groups and check online for free resources. You don’t need to break the bank in order to fill your toolbox with incredible activities and therapy ideas.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Use your resources to research your questions. If you can’t find the answer, your CF mentor is there to help guide you in the right direction when you’re really struggling! Don’t underestimate the power of collaboration. SPED teachers, OT’s, and PT’s are often also working with your students and might have answers regarding best ways to work with particular students.
Always do your best. There are always going to be days when you leave knowing that you didn’t get everything on your list crossed off. The best feeling of accomplishment is going to sleep knowing that you did your very best for the day.
You have chosen to be a member of an amazing field of ongoing research that is constantly evolving to help individuals with varied communication disorders. Use this opportunity as a time to be a sponge and learn as much as you can, grow as a clinician, and refine your clinical skills. Pretty soon you’ll blink your eyes and magically have three C’s at the end of your name before you know it!