My journey as a telepractice speech-language pathologist began in 2016, when my family relocated to a new area. After spending 18 years as a public school SLP, I was burned out. I wanted a change.
I began researching telepractice companies, drawn by the flexibility of creating my own schedule, while still providing services to elementary students.
I will admit I was skeptical at first. I wondered how treatment would look and feel. How could I build the same bonds I had with students when working in a brick-and-mortar school? But soon my eyes were opened to a whole new, amazing world!
Here’s what I—a seasoned, school-based clinician—learned are the pros of providing services to students remotely:
- It feels the same as providing face-to-face treatment. If you can provide treatment to students from across a kidney-shaped table, you can do it on a screen.
- Establishing lasting bonds with students happens just as naturally. After week two, one of my clients told me his “birthday wish” was for me to fly to his state to celebrate his special day with him.
- Making my own schedule gives me the flexibility to do other activities: I can schedule appointments during the day, run quick errands or pick up my children from school if they get sick.
- I have more time to provide quality treatment. No more high caseloads, large-group sessions or back-to-back meetings. Gone are the extra duties of lunch supervision and mandatory after-school staff meetings. I can schedule mostly private sessions—occasionally I see two students at the same time—in which my students make quick progress. I get much more time to plan my treatment and write thorough reports.
- Telepractice forced me to learn new technology. I must also think outside the box to create materials and motivators. These new skills are invaluable.
I also experience some cons:
- I quickly learned I was a relic at age 42. I had a lot to learn—and quickly—about technology. I needed to take advantage of on-the-job training programs with strong tech support.
- I work a bit harder to establish bonds with co-workers. We no longer share hallways and lunchrooms, so it takes extra effort to communicate about student issues and progress.
- Not every student is a good candidate for remote services. For some students, the nature of the disabilities requires a face-to-face clinician. It’s important to communicate your clinical impressions if you feel the student won’t benefit using this method.
- Technology makes all the difference. If your student does not have the proper technology—bandwidth capabilities, a good webcam and fast internet speed—sessions can break down, wasting time and requiring rescheduling.
- Working from home presented some challenges. I struggled to separate work and home responsibilities until I set a specific schedule for each. I also felt isolated from peers, so I networked through social media. Meeting and building friendships with other telepractitioners helped me feel more connected.
After nearly two years of telepractice, I’m thrilled I decided to make the change.
Without the stresses I felt as an on-the-ground SLP, I’ve renewed passion for my career. The extra time allowed me to build a small private practice, create educational resources to share with other SLPs, and practice better self-care.
As the need for SLPs continues to grow, I’m sure more school districts, medical facilities and clinics across the globe will turn to telepractice as a viable option to provide our services. And I can now participate in this exciting and rapidly growing field.