When I graduated from UNCG in 2015, I never imagined that I would be working in the trenches on the frontlines of a global pandemic. However, that is exactly where I am today. And while this work is exhausting and often sad, I am beyond grateful that my UNCG education and 6 years of experience working at Atrium Healthcare in Charlotte, NC has prepared me for this moment. The media may allude 2020 as the year of nurses and respiratory therapists, but us Speech Language Pathologists are a valued member of every medical team and have our role to play as well.
I began my career as an Outpatient Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist with Carolinas Rehabilitation in Charlotte. During that time, not only did I treat language and speech disorders, but I also dove into being a Feeding therapist. When the needs changed in the clinic as well as with the clientele, I transitioned into the world of Adult Outpatient and as an Acute Care Therapist. Today, I serve as the lead SLP at our Acute Care hospital at Atrium Health-University City. I work with acute adult patients, but I am also the SLP in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Oh, how I enjoy my little ones! When people ask me what type of patients I work with, I say with extreme pleasure, “I work with the entire spectrum from early births to geriatric.” My career continues to challenge me every day.
My specific roles and responsibilities as a Speech Language Pathologist have changed and developed over the years that I have been practicing. Starting in an Outpatient clinic helped me to develop evaluation and treatment skills–modifying them to the patient’s needs. Now, I am able to use those skills in the acute setting, by quickly diagnosing patients’ deficits to improve quality of life for each patient. I have also increased my knowledge as a Neonatal Feeding Therapist. In 2019, I became Certified as a Neonatal Touch and Massage therapist. Now you may ask, “why would a SLP need certification as a massage therapist?” Working with preterm infants has its challenges and no two babies are alike. Sometimes the medical team is the infant’s earliest comforts and touches. Therefore, we help to establish their neurodevelopment patterns. The certification taught me the developmental milestones of preterm infants, sensory integration, and calming strategies; all which are important during the challenging task of feeding these babies. This year myself, along with my neonatal interdisciplinary team; including a Neonatologist, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Supervisor, and Physical Therapist have established a Neurodevelopment Committee. As a member of this team, I work with clinical staff, families and patients to ensure everyone feeds safely and efficiently by promoting quality vs quantity of feeding and neurodevelopment safe behaviors. We have developed education and clinical competencies for all NICU staff as well.
My career goal was to become a medical Speech Language Pathologist, and my graduate school education at UNCG gave me the foundation and skills from which to build upon as I move further into my clinical practice. During my time at UNCG, the faculty challenged me to think critically, apply evidence-based skills, and provided me with a variety of opportunities to apply my knowledge in clinical settings. Being a Speech- Language Pathologist was not my first career choice, but it is most definitely my last. The best advice I can give any undergraduate or graduate in the Communication Science and Disorder program is, after school do not stop learning. Continue to grow your knowledge with Continuing Education Courses and place yourself in the career path you want to be in–because that is where you will thrive.