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An Eye for the Medical Side

11 October 2013

Upon deciding to enter this field for my studies (and eventually as a career), I had no idea how vast the options were within Speech-Language Pathology. Adults vs Pediatrics, School or Medical, bilingual therapy, neurogenic or phonological disorders... the list goes on. It impresses me with how diverse not only the settings are, but what disorders are treated as well. With that said, I had no idea of all the questions I'd be asked by others when I decided on this career. What is Speech-Language Pathology? What population do you want to work with? What setting do you prefer? Would you rather help Autistic children or veterans with Aphasia? So many questions, most of which I haven't begun to draw conclusions about!

Currently, I'm on a medical setting kick. Part of the reason I was drawn to this career was that there is some science behind it, and that you can help others without being in a school setting. One issue, though. It's extremely difficult to get into this setting without experience. Next issue: how is one supposed to get experience without having the qualifications to work there to begin with, especially while pursuing an undergraduate (or even a graduate) degree? 

Photo by Keerati from
Although paid jobs/internships are difficult to come by there are some out there. This may require some deep searching, though. Or, if you're lucky, you may find one of these jobs through the grapevine. In fact, most employers don't even publicly mention they have a job opening. Instead, they rely on their employees to share the information to limit the pool to pick from. That's how I came by an opportunity to be a neonatal hearing screener/ audiology assistant-- from someone I was working with in a research lab. And you know what? They only had the application available for 3 days after she told me. So once you hear about these you have to act quick! I'd suggest viewing the website of (or hand-delivering your resume to)  local hospitals, clinics or even Veteran Affairs offices. I was lucky that this job is within speech/audiology, but even if you can find a job being an assistant or clerical person in a hospital, it could help boost your resume as it's experience in a medical facility that you can draw upon in interviews.

See if your school has a club that volunteers in medical related settings or has a related mission. At my university there is a club that volunteers with children at hospitals, another that lets your volunteer at a regular hospital, Operation Smile, Ronald McDonald House, and a few others. Or, you can find places and apply to volunteer there. Medical-related volunteer positions could include: hospitals, Veteran Affairs, outpatient rehab, Make A Wish, and nursing homes.

As you have probably noticed, there is no end to learning in this field. Although this may not be an option for some, if you feel as though you have time to take some courses online, I suggest doing so. It's a win-win situation, as it will show graduate programs that you went above and beyond just learning in your classes, and you will gain invaluable insight into subject matter that interests you. There are some CEU websites that are free, some you pay a  a yearly fee, and others you pay by course. I prefer using as it's a yearly fee that's fairly reasonable for students and I have access to all their courses (without earning CEUs, as I'm an undergraduate student).
Other facets that you can gain knowledge are:
-Certifications: CPR, FirstAid, HIPAA, Blood Borne Pathogens
-Research through school, summer research opportunities, and hospitals/organizations

A major thing that I slightly touched on above is networking. If you are determined to work in a medical facility when you graduate and obtain your CCCs then you can never start too early. One way to do this is through your required shadowing/observation hours. It is suggested to shadow SLPs on both sides as an undergraduate, and I agree. There's no harm in seeing the other options and seeing how they run differently. Once/if you've decided the medical setting is for you, then try to observe as many hospital, in/outpatient, rehabilitation, skilled nursing facility SLPs and Audiologists that can. If possible, try to shadow some of the same people multiple times and keep in contact with them to build a relationship and build your network. Later on they can prove to be great references for grad school and jobs, and may even be able to suggest you for an open position in the future.

These are just some options that I believe could be helpful in gaining the knowledge, skill-set and network necessary for beginning a path towards the medical setting.

What are some tips that seasoned (or soon-to-be) SLPs and Audiologists have for undergraduates and grad students?