Lessons Learned from #ASHA14

shutterstock_101554108

Before the convention, I wrote a blog post about how to prepare to speak at the ASHA convention for the first time. When I wrote the post, I had spoken at another convention; however, I attended that convention as a speaker rather than the primary goal to participate in continuing education. At the ASHA Convention I planned to do both.

As I write, it is Sunday morning after the convention. I am reflecting on what went well and what didn’t go well as a speaker and attendee (not in regards to the convention in general).

 

What Went Well

I stayed organized. I used the resources I mentioned in my previous post to stay organized with my presentations. I also designated a paper folder to put information I would need paper copies of (e.g. shuttle routes, tickets, speaker’s notes, and master schedule). My master schedule was a great compensatory strategy for someone with a tired and busy brain. I will use the same system next year.

 

My food was amazing! Not only did I not get “glutened” (I have Celiac’s disease), but also my food was delicious and I didn’t stand in line waiting for food and I could eat on my schedule. The premade meals I ordered (external source) were a major success. It was relatively inexpensive to have delicious food pre-made and delivered to my hotel. I felt like I beat the system! Traveling is usually full of extra energy finding food I can eat and worrying if I’ll get sick (and dealing with it when I do).

 

I had a ton of fun! I was able to reconnect with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen since last year. I made new friends and connections. Sessions were inspiring. Several sessions had amazing speakers that couldn’t hide their excitement for being there. I love to see that excitement in a presenter. I went to a few large group events and quieter, smaller events too.

 

What I’ll Do Different Next Year

Submit fewer sessions. As I mentioned in my prior post, I didn’t anticipate all of the sessions would get accepted. I will submit fewer sessions next year. With so many sessions, it was challenging to schedule meetings and focus on relationship building at the convention. There were some conversations that I really would have liked to continue in order to form professional partnerships. (Thankfully, I can reach out to those people via email to continue the conversation.) Next year I won’t submit as many.

 

Book better flights. In Chicago, I left too early. This year I’m leaving too late. My flight doesn’t depart until 8:40pm on Sunday. The buzz from the convention has halted and I’m ready to go home to my family. Of course, next year it will be in Denver. I live in Boulder, so the convention center is a 35-minute drive from my home. No flights necessary. Travel will be much easier next year!

 

Sleep more. I was so excited to present on Friday morning (and inspired by Thursday’s sessions) that I was wide-eyed in the early hours of the morning, which meant I got about 3-hours of sleep. Just like I tell my clients all the time, adequate sleep is so important for your brain. I was processing slower, tripping on my words, and lost my place in conversations and while speaking in sessions! Anyone have suggestions for turning down excitement and wonder?

 

Overall the 2014 ASHA Convention was an excellent experience. I feel so inspired from the sessions I attended, people I met, and presenting. I have so many ideas help make the first quarter for 2015 amazing for Gray Matter Therapy.

 

Rachel Wynn, MS, CCC-SLP, specializes in eldercare, and, as the owner of Gray Matter Therapy, provides education to therapists, healthcare professionals, and families regarding dementia and elder care. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 15 (Gerontology) and an advocate for ethical elder care and improving workplace environments, including clinical autonomy, for clinicians.

How to Prepare to Speak at ASHA Convention for the First Time

shutterstock_167350049

This year I will be presenting at the ASHA Convention for the first time. The first time I attended an ASHA convention was last year in 2013. I enjoyed the sessions I attended and set a goal to speak at an ASHA convention sometime during my career. Thanks to partnering with amazing SLPs across the country I was able to  propose five sessions for the 2014 convention. Even though I felt that each proposal was an exciting topic, I did not expect all five to be accepted as talks (or get accepted at all). But that is exactly what happened. My first time speaking at the ASHA convention, I will be involved in five sessions. Due to scheduling conflicts, I will be speaking at only four of the sessions (see below for details). So how am I going to prepare for this? Here are three things:

 

1. Stay organized. Juggling the preparation for five sessions is not easy, so organization is key. I am reducing repetitive and inefficient work by only working on presentations at specific times. To respect my fellow presenters, I am communicating when I will be able to complete individual tasks. I schedule my presentation work sessions based on established deadlines.

Working with many co-presenters (all across the country) means many emails about our presentations. I created a file folder in my email for each presentation. I file each email in the presentation’s folder. This keeps everything together in case I need to refer back to details such as deadlines, ideas, to-do lists, and plans.

I have coordinating file folders in Google Drive for document storage (e.g. proposals, slide deck drafts, my presentation notes, etc). All the documents for each presentation are kept together. Since it’s all in the cloud, I won’t leave it behind.

 

2. Reduce inconveniences. The worst part about conventions and traveling for training for me is food. I have Celiac disease and other food allergies. Convention halls aren’t the best venue for finding gluten free, healthy food. Last year I spent $20+ on lunch, when I bought a sandwich with no bread or fries (because they were fried in the same fryer as gluten) and put the meat on top of a salad. I essentially bought 2 lunches to create one lunch (and I was still hungry).

So this time, I am doing myself a favor and anticipating a busy schedule and poor food options. I found a company that will make premade meals and deliver them to my hotel (for a lot less than $20). My hotel room has a fridge, so I will keep the premade meals in the fridge and bring lunch with me. I will not waste time on long lines or risk  getting sick.

 

3. Prepare for fun. The ASHA convention isn’t my first speaking engagement as an SLP. I have been speaking about dementia and ethics in healthcare to my fellow SLPs, other healthcare professionals, students, and family members via webinars, courses, video conferences, etc. I keep doing it because it’s fun! I thoroughly enjoy creating a presentation for a specific audience to help them reach their goals. My career has evolved into spending the majority of my time in an education role. For a former teacher, this is a very welcome evolution.

 

The pre-presentation nervousness comes, but reminding myself that each speaking opportunity is an opportunity for fun and to inspire better dementia treatment and elder care relieves my jitters quickly. I am thankful for each and every opportunity, including the several at ASHA’s convention this year. See you there!

 

Rachel Wynn is one of four guest bloggers for ASHA’s convention in Orlando and will be speaking at the following sessions:

 

Friday, November 21, 2014

  • Clients at risk for suicide: Our experiences and responsibilities (Session Code 1310) 8:00-10:00 a.m.
  • Get out of that box! Four creative mold-breaking models of private practice (Session Code 1441) 3:30-4:30 p.m.

 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

  • Social media for SLPs: Leveraging online platforms to connect and advance your practice (Session Code 1704) 1:00-2:00 p.m. (Not presenting due to scheduling)
  • Dementia 101 for students and new clinicians: Changing lives through a functional approach (Session Code 1720) 1:00-2:00 p.m.
  • Productivity pressures in SNFs: Bottom up and top down advocacy (Session Code 1755) 2:30-3:30pm

 

Rachel Wynn, MS, CCC-SLP, specializes in eldercare, and, as the owner of Gray Matter Therapy, provides education to therapists, healthcare professionals, and families regarding dementia and elder care. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 15 (Gerontology) and an advocate for ethical elder care and improving workplace environments, including clinical autonomy, for clinicians.

Interviewing Rehab Companies: How to Find an Ethical Job

jobinterview
The most frequent questions I see on forums about finding a job or interviewing are:

  • What do you know about X company?
  • What is a good hourly rate for SLP in X location?
  • What kind of questions will they ask during an interview?

These are good questions, but, given the concerns many of us have about ethical practices in skilled nursing facilities, I believe we could focus on better questions. Why? Well let’s take a look at the common questions:

What do you know about X company?
In my experience talking to therapists about ethical dilemmas, I have not come across one company that is through and through unethical. There are some really great directors of rehab who will buffer corporate productivity pressures and advocate for clinical autonomy. They are dedicated to patient-centered care. Make sure you are able to interview the person that would be your immediate supervisor.

That being said, there are some companies that foster patient-centered care from the top. I am interviewing them and featuring them on my blog Gray Matter Therapy as I am connected with them. (If you have suggestions, contact me.)

What is a good hourly rate for SLPs in X location?
I believe SLPs provide an outstanding value to their rehab teams and should be compensated appropriately, but as an advocate for patient-centered care rather than profit-centered care I think about my wage in a different manner. In talking with therapists who work for ethical companies, I find we have something in common. We get paid a little less, but we never feel pressured to work off the clock and we are allotted time to complete important non-billable tasks.

Use ASHA’s salary data as a starting point, but consider the entire compensation and benefits package. I consider my quality of life and work-life balance to be a benefit. And I feel better about myself when I can focus my energy on patient care rather than number games.

What kind of questions will they ask during an interview?
This varies drastically. Most companies asked me logistical questions such as: When can you start? Can you work weekends if required? Can you be X% productive? I have been to a few interviews where I was asked how I would handle a particular client situation. I like those questions. It is evidence to me that my interviewer cares about the quality of the therapy patients receive, rather than just the quantity.

Turn the tables: You ask the questions
Take another look at the title of this post, “Interviewing Rehab Companies.” That’s not a typo. It’s not supposed to say “Interviewing With Rehab Companies” or “How to Answer Interview Questions Perfectly.” In my previous career, I interviewed job candidates. The candidates who brought thought-out questions (writing them down is OK) were my favorite. They did a little research beforehand and thought about what they could give to the team. They were thinking about continual growth. They made great employees.

Another reason to ask questions is to learn the answer to the question I get most often: “Is this an ethical company?” The only way to find out is to ask. Ask the interviewers questions, such as:

  • How would you handle a situation when a patient is on a particular “resource utilization group” (RUG) level; however, at the end of their assessment period they have a stomach bug and don’t want to participate in therapy?
  • How are discharge dates (from each discipline and the facility) determined?
  • Will you provide an example of how activities and restorative nursing coordinate with therapy in order to best serve patients?

Your interviewer might be a little surprised if you ask tough questions. Don’t worry about this. One of three things will happen:

  • It will be a good surprise. Your interviewer will see your concern, care and critical thinking and know you’ll be a good team member.
  • They won’t like it. You might be considered someone who questions authority. You won’t get hired. That’s OK. One of the big complaints I hear from therapists is the lack of clinical autonomy they have in jobs. You’ve just screened a potential employer and avoided that situation.
  • They won’t like it, but they are desperate to fill the position. They offer you the job. That’s OK. Now you get to practice saying “no.” If the job doesn’t meet your expectations, don’t take it.

By agreeing to work only in ethical workplaces, you are advancing the bottom-up approach to affecting change. Thank you, from all of us!

If you are looking more suggestions on finding an ethical job, read the “Interviewing Tips for Finding Ethical SNFs” post at Gray Matter Therapy.

Please join us at the ASHA Convention in November for the session, “Productivity Pressures in SNFs: Bottom Up and Top Down Advocacy.” Check the program planner for details.

 

Rachel Wynn, MS, CCC-SLP,  specializes in eldercare, and, as the owner of Gray Matter Therapy, provides education to therapists, healthcare professionals, and families regarding dementia and elder care. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 15 (Gerontology) and an advocate for ethical elder care and improving workplace environments, including clinical autonomy, for clinicians.

Apps with Elders

elderapps

I am a tech savvy person. Use of technology is integrated into my life, and I am always learning something new. Currently, I am learning basic coding and web design to help private practice owners with their websites. Your website should tell your story and technology can make that happen. Perhaps I was a little naive, but it never occurred to me that maybe I should not use an iPad in my work with my geriatric patients in the SNF setting.

In the SLP social media communities I saw many SLPs using iPads or other tablets with their school or pediatric clinic caseloads. I saw what they were doing and thought, “Hey, I could do that with my patients.” And so I did. A few years ago when I got my CCC’s I gifted an iPad to myself.

And then I started using my iPad in therapy. There were a few bumps along the way, but I am still using it today. The iPad will by no means do therapy for you, but it is an excellent tool.

Five Tips to make using an iPad in therapy easier

Be confident to reduce the intimidation of technology. I start by asking if a patient has used an iPad. Then I briefly explain that it is a “little computer”, and we are going to use it to have a little fun in therapy. I gloss over the technology aspect and go straight to the fun. And then I choose an easy but interesting game, so they will have success when they are learning to use the tablet.

Use a stylus. A stylus is a pen-like instrument that the tablet will recognize similar to a fingertip. I pick them up for super cheap at stores like Marshalls or Ross. Some of the ladies I work with have gorgeously lacquered long fingernails. This almost always causes a problem, since tablets respond to fingertip taps rather than fingernail taps. A stylus will solve this problem.

Make it fun. Some of the games and apps can be quite challenging (just as any other task). When frustration starts to rise, I remind my higher level patients that we are just experimenting. If the solution or answer is not correct, we just figure out why and try something else. This approach seems to ease frustration. With my lower level patients, I do not allow that point of frustration to be reached. I use errorless learning and vanishing cues to increase success rate.

Keep your client relaxed. Because it is an unfamiliar technology there can be some anxiety about using it. I watch my patient’s body language. Is their brow furrowing, are their shoulders creeping up, are they tapping the stylus with great force? Sometimes I use subtle cues to help them improve insight into how they are feeling. Other times overt. These are great moments to talk about the effect of emotions (including anxiety) on cognitive function. Then I teach the strategy of doing something less taxing during these moments and moving back to more challenging tasks when they are feeling calmer.

Get a case. Get a case that allows you to prop up the tablet at different angles. This is really helpful for reducing the glare caused by different patient positions as well as making the tablet more accessible to those with mobility impairments.

Favorite Adult SLP Apps

Memory Match: If you are looking for an app to exercise use of memory strategies (visualization, association, verbalization) then Memory Match might be an app to check out. It’s $0.99 and available for iPad and Android. This is only suitable for clients that are able to generalize memory strategies and need activities to learn strategies.

ThinkFun Apps: Rush Hour and Chocolate Fix are great problem solving brain teaser apps that require use of deductive reasoning and logic for visual tasks. First, we identify the problem. Then, we work backward to solve it.

Tactus Therapy: This company makes some great apps. I have several, but my favorite is Conversation TherAppy. It is so versatile. I seldom use the scoring function of the app. The app has picture stimuli and a variety of prompts to target specific skills. I love not having to carry around a deck of picture cards. Have you dumped a box of stimuli cards on the floor? I have, too many times to count.

Google: Access the Google search engine via Chrome or Safari for endless possibilities. Do you have a client working on word finding tasks and needs a visual cue? Google it. Need a restaurant menu or a prescription label as a stimulus for functional questions? Google it. And I’ve been known to use it as a task motivator. Do your dysphagia exercises, then we’ll look up information about moose. (True story.)

Dropbox: Scan those 3-inch binders full of worksheets, protocols, and other information. Create PDFs and put them into Dropbox and have them anywhere you go with your iPad.  If you buy digital versions of books or tests to use on your iPad you will resolve the problem of original documents getting raggedy.

If you have an iPad or another tablet at home and haven’t used it for therapy, I recommend checking out what it can do. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Rachel Wynn, MS CCC-SLP, is speech-language pathologist specializing in geriatric care. She blogs at Gray Matter Therapy, which strives to provide information about geriatric care including functional treatment ideas, recent research, and ethical care. Rachel’s projects include: Gray Matter Therapy newsletter, Research Tuesday, and Patient Education Handouts. Find her on FacebookTwitter, or hiking with her dog in Boulder, Colo.

Tuesdays Are Made for Research

researchtuesday

Why Read Research?

I believe in delivering the best service possible to my clients. I want to see the greatest gains in their progress. I really enjoy my work with geriatric clients. It pleases me immensely to advance goals and help people improve their quality of life.  Staying up to date on research is a great way to help our clients achieve the greatest gains. Using the newest tools in the ideal way can bring great value to client care. We can learn more about recent research through conferences, reading journal articles, and continuing education.  But staying up to date on research isn’t always easy. As busy clinicians we have increased demands on our time at work and balance our family life at home. While reading research is a valuable practice, it’s not always the most engaging activity (especially for those of us who are extroverts).

Why Research Tuesday?

I started Research Tuesday for three reasons:

  1. Increase accountability for those wishing to read and writing about recent research.
  2. Expose readers to recent research through blogs. I envision speech-language pats reading blogs and filing the information away. Then a few weeks or months later a client comes along and they think, “Oh! I read something about this recently!” They may go back to the journal article and it may influence their treatment.
  3. Start conversations regarding recent research. Many people need to talk about research or write about it in order to really process how it might be applicable to their caseload and practice. I have seen many conversations on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter after a Research Tuesday post.

What is Research Tuesday?

Once a month (the second Tuesday of the month) SLP bloggers from around the world review a recent journal article of their choosing. Then they write a blog post using information in the article for their audience. Some participants write for other SLPs and some write for families or patients. Either is fine. The goal is to engage in the research topic.   Participants email me a link to their article and I develop a summary of all of the Research Tuesday blogs over at Gray Matter Therapy. You can see recent summary posts here. These summary or round up posts get shared through social media to increase exposure to our conversations about recent research.

How Can You Get Involved?

If you write a blog, we would love to have you join us for Research Tuesday. Just sign up here to learn all the details and get started. It is a once a month commitment and a great community of bloggers to join.   If you would like to receive notifications of Research Tuesday summary posts, then sign up for the Gray Matter Therapy newsletter. You will be notified of all Gray Matter Therapy blog posts, including Research Tuesday posts and summaries.  So mark your calendars for Tuesday, February 11, and see what Research Tuesdays are all about and how they can help you help your clients. 

Rachel Wynn, MS ,CCC-SLP, is speech-language pathologist specializing in geriatric care. She blogs at Gray Matter Therapy, which strives to provide information about geriatric care including functional treatment ideas, recent research, and ethical care. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, or hiking with her dog in Boulder, Colo.