Have you noticed how things in the field just aren’t getting any easier? Hospitals and SNFs are still requiring ridiculous productivity…school SLPs still have ridiculous caseloads…and the scope of practice just gets bigger and bigger while the Code of Ethics gets longer and longer. Where is it going to end?
Unfortunately, these ever increasing demands are a vicious cycle. More and more SLPs are leaving the field – not just changing from schools to SNF or Hospital to Schools or private practice…but leaving completely. Burned out. Now, when I talk to different faculty, they comment that we’re not going into the field for a life-time career…but rather a temporary career of 10-15 years…When I talk to SLPs, they say they’re burned out and just can’t do it anymore. For some the joy of helping others is still there…but it seems to be diminishing more and more. Something has to change…but what? How can I affect that change?
I’ve been doing a fair bit of soul-searching since I’ve changed positions. When I was a school-based SLP, I felt the weight of responsibility for my kids – the ones I worked with, the ones walking the hallway of the school that I didn’t see anymore, and the ones I might see. I had the responsibility to be the best clinician I could be…to stay abreast of the research as best I could and to see them as a person, not a number.
Now that I’m working at the university I feel the weight of responsibility even more. Sure, I don’t have those 40-50 school-age kids on my caseload for therapy…but I have potentially 100+ college students who look to me for guidance, inspiration, and wisdom. Who will emulate what I teach them in clinic and how I teach them in class. They will see what I (and the other faculty) do and use that as the marker for what is expected within the profession…at least for a few years.
For years now, I have been pushing advocacy – pushing for change – and challenging people to step up to the plate if things aren’t going the way they want. I’ve challenged people to be part of the change they want to see happen. Recently those words came back to haunt me. As I was sitting at my state conference where the president was
begging for requesting volunteers, my good friend Tara reminded me of my words here about stepping up to the plate and volunteering for the state association. I also had a student sitting behind me who reminded me of my responsibility to show them how we have a responsibility to the field and fellow SLPs… (okay, she may have enticed me “and then everyone will have to call you madam president” but that’s beside the point). After what seemed like hours of indecision, I realized I really did have a responsibility to meet and before I knew what was happening my hand went up and I found myself self-nominating for president-elect. (Thanks for that prompt Tara…and the prod Sarah)
Somehow that event ended up being a catalyst for some other major changes. I’m now the faculty advisor for our university chapter of NSSLHA (National Student Speech Language Hearing Association). I’ve just requested letters of recommendation from my higher-ups (chair, dean, and VPAA) to submit for an application to doctoral studies.
Cue the panic.
It would be so easy to let things stay status quo. To simply learn my new job (it’s been less than a year, it’s still new)…and get good at it (or better). But what is that really teaching? That it’s okay to let others do the work? That I don’t have a responsibility to give back to the profession? That I shouldn’t push myself to the next level?
We, seasoned professionals…faculty…mentors…co-workers…CFY Supervisors…Graduate student supervisors…have a role to play. We have a job to do that goes beyond our clients.
I know many of my readers have stepped up to the plate. They’ve been volunteers, STEP Mentors, etc… but for those of you who haven’t, I challenge you to step up – do something, just one thing, for the profession – for those upcoming young professionals…Volunteer on a committee, write a leader column, write a blog post, be a STEP mentor, go for the next degree, go for a specialist certificate…DO something. Help US change what is wrong with the field.
I’d love to hear what you decide to do. Brag about it just a little bit here.
(AKA Madame President-Elect)