Dear incoming speech pathology student clinicians,
I do not consider myself an expert on any field in Speech Pathology. Like many others, “marami pa akong bigas na kakainin”. But, I am most comfortable working with individuals with hearing impairment and their families. My heart is with aural habilitation among many things. That is the reason why I applied for the position as a clinical supervisor at the Philippine General Hospital-Ear Unit (PGH-Ear Unit) and chose to pursue graduate studies in Clinical Audiology. I am actually relatively new to teaching. I started just in 2013 as a clinical supervisor for UST-SLP (University of Santo Tomas-Speech Language Pathology) student clinicians at CLASP Auditory Verbal Center, Inc. And, it has only been a year since I have been with the faculty of the College of Allied Medical Professions at the University of the Philippines Manila.
In my undergraduate and graduate years, I was not what you would consider as an ideal student. I wasn’t the ideal speech pathology intern as well. But, I am most willing to share with you some of the things I have realized from my experiences during my clinical internship year up until now that I am a practicing clinician and clinical supervisor.
Before I tell you the expectations that I have on my students, let me tell you some of the things that you should expect on your training.
I think it is safe to say that the clinical internship year will not be a walk in the park. You will be challenged—a lot. Things will be tough that sometimes, you might question yourself. Prepare to have sleepless nights as there will be tons to do. And maybe, it will not help that this will happen during a phase in your student life that you will have to actually do the things that have mostly been abstract to you since your very first introductory course to speech pathology.
The life of a speech pathology intern includes, but is not limited to, the following:
1. Seeing scheduled clients on weekdays for therapy and trying to provide the best intervention for each of their unique needs;
2. Educating and training the families and caregivers of your clients to help make the intervention a success;
3. Working with other individuals from other disciplines to ensure that the intervention is holistic;
4. Dealing with your clinical supervisors who may have different perspective on things, teaching styles and personalities;
5. Working with your co-interns; you will not get to choose who to work and be with at your clinical affiliation sites;
6. Having administrative tasks and housekeeping duties to help your centers operate smoothly;
7. Accomplishing paperwork, tons of them; this includes evaluation reports, goal lists, therapy plans, running notes, monitoring sheets, progress reports to name some;
8. Presentations, presentations, presentations: case presentations, journal reports, evidenced based practice presentations;
9. Projects, projects, projects: creating therapy materials and organizing events for the benefit of your clients;
10. Convincing yourself that you can do all of these things especially because you have to juggle clinical duties with tasks for your undergraduate thesis (fortunately you have your Fridays and/or weekends for that) while trying to keep your sanity.
I am not saying all of these things to scare you. Rather, it is my intention to prepare you for things to come. In line with that, I would like to orient you with how you will be graded. In general, you will be evaluated by your clinical supervisors based on three major domains: knowledge, skills and attitudes.
For the knowledge component, you will be assessed based on what you know—basically your theoretical knowledge. This will be tested on how you analyze your cases, your rationale on doing things and how you plan your intervention program and sessions.
The skills component will include how you put into action the things you have planned (both clinical and non-clinical tasks) and how you adjust when things don’t go as expected. At CLASP and the PGH-Ear Unit, your use of acoustic highlighting techniques will be a priority along with proper administration of assessment procedures in testing audition skills.
As for the attitudes component, you will be rated based two major areas: attitudes regarding the learning process and your professional behavior. Your attitude on the learning process will include (but again, is not limited to) your willingness to learn and your efforts to maximize your learning opportunities. As for professional behavior, this will include how you treat people you will be working with—other professionals, clinical supervisors, co-interns, families and most especially your clients. Your judgments regarding along with your application of the ethical principles will also be considered. Moreover, punctuality in terms of patient care and submission of requirements will be graded.
Having said all these things, these are my personal expectations from interns:
1. I expect you to be prepared. Read up on your lectures.
2. Do not limit yourselves to what has been taught in your major subjects. There are lots of other information out there.
3. Read up on your assessment manuals and do your best to follow them. Reliable assessment of your clients’ skills will depend highly on your administration of evaluation procedures.
4. Be creative. Understand that your clients will be unique. Do your best to create learning opportunities that are functional and fun. Nobody likes a boring teacher.
5. Be critical. Not all information that will be presented to you may be accurate. Sometimes, your teachers may question you or apply the “sabotage” technique on you as you do with your own students. Its primary objective is for you to develop better processing skills, not to confuse you.
6. Do your part in the teacher-student relationship. Learning is a two-way thing. Help us teach you the best possible way. Your teachers are not perfect. We do not know it all too. I am personally looking forward to learning from students as well.
Among all three domains previously mentioned, it is attitudes that I most value. This is in line with the belief that improvement of knowledge and skills will follow if you have the right attitudes. Here are additional thoughts on how to show it.
· In the clinics, you will encounter different types of people. Not everyone will be that easy to work with. This includes your clients. Treat them with outmost respect. They are your top priority. When you graduate, they will be your bread and butter. Always put your clients’ needs in mind.
· Be honest. Be honest most especially when things go wrong. Own up to your mistakes. Be honest with your findings and observations. I know that sometimes, it is hard to admit mistakes but I tell my students, there is no better time to commit them than during your internship year. If you will not be honest, you will miss learning opportunities. Isn’t that what your internship is about?
· Follow your centers’ rules and regulations. They were made for a reason.
· Do not be greedy. Share things you know and have learned. One of the major things that helped me through my clinical internship year was support from others. Help one another. Do not deny others of your knowledge and skills. Share and good things will come your way. Think karma.
· Be open. Welcome new things as well as criticisms. Any box will remain empty if it is always closed. Okay, baka may pilosopo, pwedeng may air particles o kung anuman ang box kahit na walang laman na visible sa human eye, but I hope you get my point.
· Take your time. As all clients are unique, so are students. You may need more or maybe less time to learn. If ever you fail (though I hope no one will), you are entitled to grieve for a short time but move on afterwards. Do not compare yourself to others. Think about your learning more than your grades. I was pleased to know that I share the same sentiments with Dean Marzan of UP-CAMP that "grades do not equate to how good a clinician you will become".
Consider all these things and hopefully, you will graduate from college equipped with things you need as an entry-level professional. Yes, entry-level professional. Becoming a speech pathologist is one thing while staying as one is another issue.
The transition from being a student to a professional is an exciting but sometimes confusing phase in a speech pathologist’s life. After marching at your graduation ceremonies, you have been set free from the prying eyes of your supervisors and are now potential earners. However, being the newbie in the profession may come with some struggles—struggles that you will have to face without the support that a clinical supervisor can give.
Basically, professional life is like internship life (client care, family/caregiver training, etc.) now with the financial benefits and greater responsibilities. No one will be accountable for whatever decisions and actions you will make on your clients but yourself. Also, no one will make sure that you keep on improving but yourself too. In short, you are mostly on your own.
The good thing is you can create or take learning opportunities to further improve. For one, you may opt to undergo additional training from institutions or mentors. There are also seminars and conferences that you can attend to. You may also do independent reading, researching, organizing group discussions, asking colleagues for help or simply observing others during sessions. You could also go back to school and enroll for graduate studies. The possibilities are endless. You just have to remember and keep the things that were instilled to you, especially the right attitudes, during your internship year. That’s why I hope that you will make the most out of it.
To end, let me reiterate that things will get tough so do your best to deliver. However, do not forget to take a breather every now and then, you will need that. Do not be too hard on yourselves. Enjoy and best wishes! See you at the clinics!
Jaymilyn V. Catangay, MClinAud, CSP-PASP (Teacher Jaymi to her students) is a graduate of BS Speech Pathology of UP College of Allied Medical Professions in 2009, and Master of Clinical Audiology from the UP College of Medicine / UP-CAMP in 2015. She is a clinician, an administrator, and a clinical supervisor for student clinicians of UST-CRS and UP-CAMP.
Photo Credits: 1) Internship Rotation at CTS-Pedia - CTS-P co-interns, 2) PGH Ear Unit - Pibs Solis, 3) Auditory Verbal Therapy Workshop - Judith Simser, 4) With CLASP Therapists - Leah Labrador.