Whichever way you sign it, those 8 letters represent so much. They represent tuition paid (or still paying). They represent hours spent studying instead of partying. They represent clinical hours and SOAP notes and notecards for tests and so much more. They represent your education. And I’m sure you went to the best university that had the best program for Speech-Language Pathology. I know that I did.
But, your university did NOT teach you everything…
And that’s just fine.
Here’s the thing, it’s nearly impossible to learn about speech, language, fluency, voice, swallowing, cognition, etc. to the extent that you need to know it to be a competent clinician in that area. Universities are diverse and they have diverse professors who are nerdy about diverse areas of Speech-Language Pathology. I can still name the professors at my university who were the “phono prof” or the “cluttering prof”. We all have an area of Speech-Language Pathology that drew us to the field and professors are the same way. Mine is definitely NOT articulation… It’s AAC and pediatrics. Your area might be swallowing or aphasia. I know that I would not be completely competent in all areas of Speech-Language Pathology. It’s been a few years since graduation and slowly some of that information is being lost or overtaken by new research in our field.
What is important to know, as a clinician, is not only the areas that you are a strong and completely competent (borderline nerdtastic) SLP… but the areas that you are not currently equipped to treat clients in. Maybe you just have a tricky client who presents with a dx that you aren’t incredibly familiar with. Maybe your university didn’t spend as much time on a particular area. Or maybe you weren’t as interested in it at the time. Regardless, you should not step into a treatment room with a client who presents with that diagnosis/area if you are not completely competent. “Fake it ’til you make it” DOES NOT apply here! I’m not saying that you can’t become competent. That’s one of the BEST things about this profession. You can move around and continue to learn for the entire time that you practice. You can eat CEUs for breakfast and sleep with a pediatric swallowing textbook under your pillow at night. You CAN BECOME competent in any area with enough research and practice.
If your university didn’t teach you everything or if you have forgotten a few things, here are some places to start:
ASHA: Of course. A very good place to start! Search, check out journals, etc. Get your research on!
Blogs: School SLPs aren’t the only ones blogging y’all! There are medical SLPs out there blogging up a storm too! Like Gray Matter Therapy for example! Read up on therapy ideas, ask questions, reach out. SLPs are friendly!
Social Media: Hop on some of the Facebook groups for SLPs or hang out on Twitter. Send a question out there, get honest feedback, learn, & then do! I love my network of SLPs from all over the world. They have helped me work through those tricky things that come up as a clinician.
Phone a Friend (Or e-mail/text/pigeon): You weren’t the only graduate of your program in the year you received that hood, were you? No? Good! So you have contacts to reach out to. In my program there were SLPs that went into EVERY type of setting you could imagine. So ask them! Plus, you should know by now that after you survive grad school, you have a magical bond with those people and they will surely help you out if you have a question. Many of the professors you had would also be happy to exchange some nerdy SLP e-mails with you as well!
CEUs: Go to a conference or attend a workshop devoted to the area that you are interested in and/or needing additional information in. And don’t just be there… BE THERE! Interact. Speak up. Ask questions. Take notes. Stay after and introduce yourself to the speaker and get their contact information. They might be a new person to contact with questions or to get additional information from!
Whatever you do, make sure that you feel confident and competent with your clients. It’s best practice and in our Code of Ethics!
And just remember, your university didn’t teach you EVERYthing… & that is just fine!
(Now go sing your school’s fight song or something!)