As the last school year ended, I knew I wanted to spend my summer break being productive. Due to my summer class schedule, I wasn’t going to be able to get a job, so I decided to jump headfirst into my future as an SLP. In April, I began contacting as many different hospitals and private practices as I could to see if I could schedule observations with licensed SLPs.
I didn’t give up until I was either told no or given the contact information of another individual or location. By the end of the summer it was clear that my persistence was worth it— I was able to complete observations across the state of Virginia and accumulated more than 65 hours of observation time!
In addition to two private practice locations just minutes away from my home in Northern Virginia, I spent most of my time in some of the state’s most well-renowned hospitals:
- Reston Hospital Center
- UVA Children’s Hospital
- Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (Fredericksburg and Stafford therapy branches)
- Inova Loudoun Hospital
- Inova Mount Vernon Hospital
- Mary Washington Hospital
- Stafford Hospital
I thought I knew what kind of SLP I wanted to be—working with kids in the school setting seemed like it was right up my alley because I enjoy spending time with little kiddos. However, after observing the amazing SLPs in these in- and out-patient health care facilities, I definitely think I’ve changed my mind!
Opening My Eyes to a New World
At the beginning of the summer, my parents questioned why I was dedicating so much time and energy to the same clinical setting. They thought it’d become monotonous, but their thoughts couldn’t have been any further from the truth! Each hospital brought distinct learning opportunities and unique patients.
The most distinct difference I found between each hospital was the type of patients I’d be working with in the in-patient and out-patient healthcare settings. I was exposed to patients suffering from Parkinson’s who were battling against dysphagia, TBI patients who were recovering their cognitive communication skills, children with complex intellectual disabilities developing their expressive language capabilities, and so much more. I also had the opportunity to assist with procedures like a modified barium swallow (MBS) and a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES).
Changing My Mind
After observing and assisting in all of these hospital environments, my eyes were opened to the excitement of a varied SLP case load in the health care setting. I realized just how many options there are for SLPs! I now know that the fast-paced health care environment, with more critical patients, is exactly how I want to dedicate my career. I have an unquestionable desire to specialize in the impacts of neurological disorders on a person’s quality of life.
As a student, our most important job (besides studying) is to be our own advocate. It’s not enough to think you’re interested in a certain topic, you have to dive into it—research it, learn as much as you can about it, and truly try your hardest to experience it.
But, at the same time, you need to be entirely open to other options. You never know… maybe you’ll have an experience that’ll change your mind!