It's that time of year! Finals are finishing up, graduation is right around the corner, you passed the Praxis, and you may have even landed a job already! Congrats! Now it's time to begin life as a professional. Does that idea sound scary or overwhelming? Maybe a little. But it's definitely exciting! As someone who's been there, allow me to provide some tips to help calm any nerves you may have and make your transition to professional life easy and enjoyable!
1. Be confident: You know more than you think you do. In fact, you just finished school so you have the most current information in the field! That being said, there will be times when you won't know the answer and that's a-ok. Become familiar with the phrase: "I don't know but I can find out." And always keep this tidbit in the back of your mind: you know more than your client and their family members (usually)!
2. Allow yourself time to adjust from "student" to "professional": One of the best things about our profession is the Clinical Fellowship Year. It's a built in year to ease this transition. Take advantage of it and learn from your supervisor! Don't be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Your supervisor is there as a resource for you. Use them!
3. Be a team player: Collaborate with other professionals. If you're in a medical setting take the time to talk with and get to know the nurses, doctors, dietitians, STNAs, physical and occupational therapists in your facility. If you're in a school setting talk with teachers and administrators who know your students. This will allow you to learn about your client and create the best treatment plan possible.
4. Ask questions: No one expects you to know everything. Learn from people with more experience. Ask questions to learn about policies at your facility, treatment ideas, and to learn about your client!
5. Keep learning: Look up information that you don't know the answer to. Our field is always changing. Join forums online, read journals, attend conferences, and consider joining an ASHA SIG (special interest group).
6. Don't spend tons of money on materials: Garage sales and dollar stores have so many awesome finds! Be creative, Google, Pinterest, and speech blogs have tons of free printables and ideas to make your own materials on a budget. AccuTx's mission is to provide affordable resources for therapists and their clients. Don't forget to check out our products! Also, check out what is already at your facility. Chances are, you aren't the first speech therapist at your place of employment and they may already have a nice collection of awesome stuff they would be willing to share!
7. Take advantage of PRN positions: These positions will allow you opportunities to keep your skills current in different settings/locations and will also allow you to experience variety within the field.
8. Don't get bummed out when a session does not go as well as you had hoped/planned: Your will have sessions that are AMAZING and then you will have some that could have gone better. When this happens just remind yourself that what your client did in the session that day was more than they could have done without you.
9. Leave work AT work and take your lunch breaks: I realize that there are some situations that require you to take work home with you. Do your best to not make this a habit. If you are working at work AND working at home, when will you have time for yourself/family? The work will get done. And same thing with that lovely break in the middle of the day. Do your best to take your lunch. The earlier you can adopt the habit of taking your break and not taking your paperwork home with you, the less likely you'll burn out.
10. Have fun: Get to know your clients and plan fun sessions that you know they will enjoy. Make friends with your co-workers and do your best to enjoy this profession that you worked so hard to be a part of!
So "Hats Off" to all the new SLPs out there! May your feel prepared and your transition be smooth!