If you have graduated from, are currently enrolled in or plan to enroll in a program to become a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP), you know that this program requires dedication and hard work. One of the best feelings is to pass your Praxis exam, finish your Clinical Fellowship Year (the 9 months of paid work after your graduate from your SLP program) and start signing your name CCC-SLP.
While you are in school, you have the world at your fingertips. This is the time you are trying to decide where you might like to work and what area you might want to specialize. This is also a great time to start shadowing other SLPs in a variety of settings.
There are many different areas in which an SLP can work. Some settings require you to work with either adults or children, while some settings allow you to work with both.
Where do you think you might want to work?
NICU– Working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can be challenging and rewarding. The SLP will often work with premature babies or babies born with difficulty feeding or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) and assist the families in finding the safest and most effective way to feed their baby. Patients are often seen daily.
Hospital– The hospital setting can provide the SLP a way to work with a variety of people of various ages or diagnoses. Often, the SLP will work in acute care with patients admitted to and staying in the hospital or in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This often involves assessment of the patient regarding their swallowing, speech and/or cognition (memory, problem solving, “thinking” skills.) The SLP in the hospital setting will also often complete Modified Barium Swallow Studies (xray assessment of swallowing that allows you to watch as the food and drink move through the pharynx (throat) and through the esophagus. The hospital based SLP may also use Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) utilizing a scope passed through the patient’s nose into their pharynx to watch the person swallow. Patients are often seen daily until they are discharged to home or to a new facility.
School– The school-based SLP is often in high demand. Working with students in the school system, the SLP will work with educationally relevant disorders including reading, language, fluency, articulation or social skills among other areas. The school SLP is responsible for assessment and treatment of students, supervision of assistants (if assistants are used), writing and following the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and attending/holding case conferences regarding students on caseload. The school SLP may also be the person that assesses and teaches the student to use Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) through a device or a series of pictures the student uses to communicate.
Research Lab– There are several labs where research is conducted in the field of Speech Language Pathology. Research is a very important part of our profession as it helps up to discern which assessments and treatments are effective for a variety of speech diagnoses including dysphagia, aphasia, apraxia, language, fluency and voice, to name a few. In this setting you often see patients for the sake of research.
Early Intervention– Early Intervention (EI) is typically provided in the home or in a clinic and is for children from birth to age three. EI can often involve working with children with feeding or swallowing disorders or helping children to acquire age-appropriate language skills. Children can be seen from 1-5 times week.
Home Health– Home Health is Speech Language Pathology services provided in the home. These services can be provided for patients of a variety of ages. Typically these patients are home-bound or unable to leave their homes for a variety of reasons. The SLP will go to the home and provide assessment and treatment for patients following stroke, diagnosis of Parkinson’s, dementia, etc. Patients can be seen from 1-5 times a week.
Private Practice– Often, SLPs will own their own practice. The practice is tailored to what the SLP wants to do. You get to choose which clientele you offer your services, children, adults or both and what disorders you are able to assess and treat. You would also be the one responsible for billing insurance or charging for your services. Patients can be seen from 1-5 times a week.
Skilled Nursing Facility– A Skilled Nursing Facility or Nursing Home has changed over the years and has become far more rehabilitation driven with expectation that many patients will return to home. You will often work with the elderly population in this setting although you may see some younger adults stay for rehabilitation following strokes or accidents among other diagnoses. There are homes that are specifically for children with severe-profound impairments. The SLP in this setting will be responsible for paperwork, assessment, treatment and seeing patients for a set amount of time that is scheduled daily. Patients are often seen 5 days a week.
OutPatient– An outpatient facility can be a stand-alone building or part of a hospital. This is a facility that the patients come in to see the SLP for a variety of reasons. This service can be offered to children and adults for a multitude of speech dysfunctions and is often paid for by insurance. Patients that are not home-bound, appropriate for SNF or not deemed eligible to receive services in school are often seen in the outpatient setting. Patients can be seen 1-5 times a week.
Mobile Provider– Mobile Providers for FEES (Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing) and MBSS (Modified Barium Swallow Study) are becoming increasingly popular. These provide affordable assessment of swallowing that comes to your patient. These assessments are critical for swallowing disorders to provide accurate evaluation and ability to develop an appropriate treatment plan.
ENT Office– SLPs can work along with an Ear Nose and Throat Physician to offer their services. These services are often related to voice and swallowing and patients would visit the ENT office as they would an outpatient clinic. Patients are often seen 1-5 times a week.
Clinic– Working in a private clinic is often similar to working in an outpatient clinic. The SLP can provide services to adults, children or both with almost any speech diagnosis. The patients can be seen 1-5 times a week.
With so many job opportunities available, you can’t go wrong with a career in the field of Speech Language Pathology.