One Recent Grads Advice for Adjusting from Graduate School to your Full Time Clinical Fellowship Position (aka what I wish someone said to me during my first year as a full time SLP)
1. Lean on Your Support System
The learning curve I experienced transitioning from graduate school to full time employment was hard, and that is an understatement. I was feeling overwhelmed and underqualified. Talking with my speechie friends at my new job and my speechie friends from school showed me that I was not alone. This huge learning curve was real and despite our exceptional educations and clinical experiences, we were all feeling less than. I think what helped me the most during this transition was my support system of fellow speechies, my family, my friends and my husband. Don’t be afraid to reach out and lean on others.
2. Ask All the Questions!!
During my CF year, I came to find that I still had a lot to learn (still do!) but what I sometimes forgot was that it was OKAY. I thought after the extensive training we go through that I would be ready for the 50 plus kiddo caseload. WRONG. There’s no way I saw all I needed to see and learned all I needed to learn in graduate school. And just because I was now a full time speech language pathologist didn’t mean I had to know what I was doing all the time (even though I’m the “expert” now??? what??? I’m the same clinician I was 5 minutes ago BEFORE I graduated soooo not sure how I magically became the freaking expert!!). Don’t get me wrong, I knew this was a life long learning profession, but I guess I just thought I would feel more sure of myself after SIX years of school. But I didn’t. So I had lots of questions, some I asked and some I didn’t. My advice looking back is ASK THEM ALL. No question is too small, too obvious, or too silly.
3. Use the Research & Resources
Since I was feeling unsure and a little in over my head during this time, I returned to my class notes and to the research to make me feel confident in the services I was providing. I also looked for any resources I could find for treatment ideas and activities. I used A LOT of the materials I made in graduate school so when my supervisors told me to save everything, they were not kidding.
Here are a few of my recommendations for research & resources:
The Informed SLP: a monthly Speech-Language Pathology research newsletter (10/10 recommend joining!)
ASHA Evidence Maps: a searchable online tool designed to assist clinicians with making evidence-based decisions
Speech Bite: a Speech Pathology database for best interventions and treatment efficacy
Clinical Research for SLPs Facebook page: a Facebook group that posts research-based discussions
Teachers Pay Teachers: free or paid speech and language activities
Mommy Speech Therapy: free articulation card downloads
Home Speech Home: free articulation word lists, sentences, and reading paragraphs
Super Duper Handy Handouts: free downloadable parent handouts on a variety of speech and language topics
4. Find Versatile Activities
The jump into full-time employment was a big one, especially in the time management department. One thing I found that helped me to be the most efficient was to create or find activities and materials that were versatile. One game or book that can be used to target a variety of goals allows you to prep one activity for multiple clients. Even a weekly theme can help you narrow your activities and prep so activities can be used across clients. For example, on Halloween, the book Trick or Treat Little Critter could be used to target the /t/ sound, answering wh- questions, sequencing and retelling stories, using he/she phrases to describe pictures, and so on. You could create a jack-o-lantern pumpkin craft and glue on the child’s speech sounds, have the child follow directions to complete the craft, or have the child earn materials needed for the craft by completing drills for a variety of goals.
5. Give Yourself Grace
Last but definitely not least, remember that you got this. It’s more than okay to feel all the feelings and trust me when I say you are most definitely not alone. We are human so give yourself some grace, find ways to take care of yourself, and keep up that positive self talk. You are learning every single day. And YOU ARE DOING AWESOME!!