I never thought I’d finally be able to say this, but…
four semesters down, ONLY ONE MORE TO GO!
Time has never flown as fast as it has these past four months. This semester marked the beginning of my very first full-time internship and I couldn’t have felt more prepared. After five years of learning about speech-language pathology in a classroom and having clinical placements only twice a week, I was thrilled to finally start working out in the field with other professionals full-time. Bring on the real world experiences!
One of the biggest reasons I chose UT’s grad program opposed to others is that the the entire second year of their program is dedicated to full-time internships; one working with adults and the other working with pediatrics. This is an opportunity that is not usually provided in SLP graduate programs, making it an opportunity I definitely couldn’t pass up. Even though I’ve always known that my heart has been set on working with children, I wanted the chance to gain experience working with both populations before graduating. And my goodness, I’m beyond thankful UT has given me that experience!
I began my medical internship working with the adult population at Canterbury-on-the-Lake at the end of August. Canterbury is a facility that’s home to an independent living, assisted living, memory care, and rehabilitation facility, all in one enormous setting. During my internship, I worked primarily within the in-patient rehabilitation wing where patients come to receive physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy between their release from the hospital and their return home (the average length of stay being only 21 days).
This internship gave me more experiences and confidence than I ever expected to gain in only three and a half months. As my caseload consisted primarily of patients with mild cognitive impairments or a diagnosis of Dementia, I provided treatment targeting memory, problem solving, organization, reasoning, attention, orientation, and safety awareness skills. I also gained experience evaluating and providing treatment to patients with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). These are all skills that most people don’t realize fall within an SLP’s scope of practice, which called for providing a great amount of education to patients and family members on the purpose and importance of our treatment sessions.
Working with patients and family members who have been effected by a diagnosis such as Dementia was unlike any other clinical experience I have had thus far. This job required an incredible amount of patience and empathy, plus some very thick skin when working with patients who have challenging behaviors. Even though I had received prior training and education for working with patients who have a Dementia diagnosis, learning from my supervisor’s expertise and guidance in this specialized area allowed me to gain even more confidence in my ability to potentially work with this population in the future.
Although I loved learning from all of my patients, I have to admit my favorite part of the entire internship was working with the patients who have acquired Aphasia (the loss of ability to understand or express speech due to a stroke or brain damage). Even though these cases were among the most heartbreaking, these are the cases that made me think “this is the reason I do what I do” after every single session.
Moments like helping your patient ask which channel the U of M vs. State game is on (after his wife had become visibility exhausted and frustrated spending all morning attempting to guess what he was asking) or moments like hearing your patient say “I love you” to his wife after two months of being unable to tell her are the moments that immediately brought tears to my eyes. The moments my patients began cheering when they achieved a personal goal or hugged me when they were unable to verbally express their gratitude or when family members thanked me profusely for helping their loved one to communicate… these are the moments that will continue to remind me why I chose this profession.
In my opinion, one of the best parts about working at Canterbury was the quality of interdisciplinary work between the therapy, nursing, and social work staff. After learning so much about the importance of effective communication between professions, I’m so grateful to have had experience working on a therapy team that demonstrates the kind of professionalism and expertise that should be expected in every medical setting. Every week the therapy and nursing departement held care conferences for each individual patient, taking the time to discuss their individualized plan of care, concerns, and therapy progress. I loved having the opportunity to gain experience collaborating with the other therapists, patients, and family members at these meetings. The therapy department at Canterbury has set my expectations for a future workplace and colleagues extremely high.
Some of the highlights of my semester were, without a doubt, the patient’s comments or comebacks to my questions! HA! Who would’ve guessed adults can be just as hilarious and sassy as kids? Here are just few of my favorites…
Me: “Could you tell me who the current president is?”
“Oh lord, don’t get me started!”
Me: “I’m here for your speech therapy session”
“Oh, I’ve sure got a lot of problems, but I know speech ain’t one of ’em”
Me: “How are you feeling today?”
“I’m feeling like a real tramp. I’m wearing the same outfit and bra as yesterday.”
Physical therapist: “Keep up the good work. We have to make sure you’re strong enough to go home”
“Isn’t that your job, not mine?”
Me: “Ready to go [to speech therapy]?”
“My motto is no bullshit and no horse shit, got it? Okay good. Let’s go baby girl!”
Me: “Name 15 things you might see while taking a nature walk”
“Cigarette buds, spit on the sidewalk… ugh I just hate when they do that! Isn’t that disgusting?”
And my personal favorite while saying goodbye on my very last day…
“I wish you all the best of luck because the work you do is so incredibly important”
*insert my melted heart here*
TMC, the company that employ’s Canterbury’s therapy department, requires all interns to create a project on any clinical topic of our choice and provide an in-service presentation about that topic or resource to the staff of the therapy department. Throughout the course of the semester, I worked to create a language resource kit that uses a combination of common household objects (things like a cup, hairbrush, key, spoon, and mirror) in combination with laminated pictures of those objects and actions using those objects to target a variety of speech and language goals during rehabilitation in patients with aphasia or a traumatic brain injury. I created one kit for Canterbury’s therapy department to keep and a kit for myself to use with my own patients in the future.
The major advantage of creating my own language therapy toolkit was without a doubt the cost benefit. If an SLP were to buy the standardized version of this toolkit that is marketed by a large name-brand company, it would cost approximately $350. To buy and create all of the materials needed for my toolkit myself, I only spent $15. I have a good feeling my future self with thank me for investing the time into this project! 🙂
In November, I was able to take a few days off from my internship to travel to Boston for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association national convention with three girls in my cohort. We spent four days attending sessions on all sorts of clinical topics, exploring Boston, and completely geeking out over all things SLP!
A blog all about my trip to Boston is soon to come!
As part of my cohorts’s plan of study, we had two classes this semester in addition to our internship; Fluency and Aural Rehabilitation. Our fluency class focused on providing treatment to people who stutter, while our aural rehab class focused on how to effectively provide speech and language treatment to adults and children with hearing loss. Every Tuesday I traveled back down to Toledo for these evening classes. And as you can probably guess, this was not my favorite part of the semester HA!
WHAT’S TO COME
On January 14th, I begin the final step towards finishing up my graduate school experience with my pediatric internship in the Clarkston School District at both Independence Elementary and the Clarkston Early Childhood Center! Those who know me know that for the past two years, I have become exceptionally passionate about working with both the autism population and the early intervention population (birth-3). I know this is exactly where my heart belongs in SLP. Independence Elementary is home to Clarkston School’s specialized autism program, while the Early Childhood Center is home to their preschool and early intervention programs. Yes, this placement really is THAT perfect for me!
This coming semester marks the home stretch towards achieving my master’s degree and FINALLY beginning my dream career. My Christmas break will be spent updating my resume and studying intensely for the Praxis because this next semester will consist of the Praxis exam (the national certification exam for speech-langauge pathologist), the University of Toledo competency exam (the comprehensive exam required to graduate with my master’s degree from UT), job applications, and career fairs.
It’s all becoming so real!!
Just one more semester stands between me and my master’s degree!
See you in 228 days, graduation!
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