I’m in the middle of my third year as a speech-language pathologist, working in the elementary school setting for the entire time. I’ve come a long way since the first day of my clinical fellowship, but I still feel uncertain at times. I balance finding the appropriate clinical approaches, learning to work with my colleagues, and pursuing professional development—and these tasks can sometimes pile up.
The following seven strategies help me from feeling overwhelmed. I hope others working in communication sciences and disorders will find them useful!
You will always have questions.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an SLP about to begin your first job or an audiologist in your 10th year of running your own practice—we never know everything. I say this because I hope you realize you’re not alone. One of the exciting aspects of being an audiologist or SLP is that we work an evolving field. New research, techniques and regulations are released seemingly every day. It’s impossible for even the most experienced CSD pro to consume every single bit of information.
Know where and how to find resources.
When a question pops up, don’t let it linger in your mind. Go out and search for an answer. Open up a graduate school textbook, join a professional group, consult with other colleagues or refer to research articles. And don’t forget to check out ASHA’s website with its many helpful sources, such as the Practice Portal, evidence maps, Special Interest Groups, peer-reviewed journals, and the Leader magazine and Leader Live.
Build relationships with your co-workers.
We can learn so much from other professionals. Key to making these relationships work involves forming a bond with the people you work with regularly. For me, that includes teachers, other special educators, nurses, administrators and other school staff. Take a minute to ask them about their day, eat lunch with them and talk with them about what you do. Show them respect, flexibility and kindness. If they feel you appreciate and are willing to help them, you’ll likely receive the same support in return.
Take care of yourself to better take care of others.
Our professional purpose involves taking care of others—and we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. Take the advice you give co-workers and friends. Read a book for fun, put away paperwork for the night or actually take the sick day when you are unwell.
You are the voice of your clients and their families.
We help give clients’ their voices. We know this process might take time. In the meantime, we can stand up for our clients. Be the voice for your clients and their families. Be an advocate for those who need you to fight for them.
Be a representative of our professions.
Many people don’t know what SLPs actually do, and have mixed perceptions about our abilities and scope of practice. Don’t hesitate to voice your opinion at staff or IEP meetings. No one else can offer the expertise you can provide. Make the time to educate other professionals, families and community members on what you do. Better Hearing & Speech Month is coming up next month, use that opportunity to share what you do.
You help change lives.
Remember how much what we do matters to our clients. Some days you might feel like you aren’t doing enough. Changing lives takes long, hard work, but it’s why we became audiologists and SLPs. If you have a challenging day or week, try making a list of everything you accomplished to help you remember the importance of what you do.
Erin Elizabeth Milewski, MS, CCC-SLP, works as a school-based SLP in the East Pennsboro Area school district outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. firstname.lastname@example.org