Reflections: My First Year as a New Grad Speech Pathologist
Stepping out into the world of work can be daunting regardless of what degree you hold in your hand. You’ll learn a lot (and grow a lot!) in your first year as a new grad speech pathologist, that’s for sure. But if you are on the edge of entering your first year as a new grad speechie, and want some insight into what to expect, look no further!
Here at SpeechEase Speech Therapy, we’ve been lucky enough to support the growth of some truly incredible Speech Pathologists over the years. Most recently, we’ve had clinicians in our Townsville, Mackay and Brisbane clinics working their way through their first year as new grad speechies. Today, we’re sharing some of their reflections (including what they’d do differently!) on their first year as Speech Pathologists.
My First Year as a New Graduate Speech Pathologist
What I Was Most Nervous About as a New Grad Speech Pathologist
Difficult client conversations.
As a new grad Speech Pathologist, for the first time you’ll be in charge of not only delivering therapy but also communicating with clients and their families directly about their care. This can come with its own learnings over time as you figure out the best ways to communicate complex information and manage any conflict or challenges that can arise.
Being ‘the Speech Pathologist’, not ‘the Student Speech Pathologist’.
It can feel like everything changes the minute you go from being a student to a full-blown, degree qualified Speech Pathologist. You’re now in charge of your own caseload and are responsible for making sound clinical judgements and providing quality therapy.
The first moment you close the room to do therapy, knowing there isn’t a two-way mirror or a camera in the room allowing a supervisor to observe and jump in when you need help can be scary! But with regular individual and group supervision, as well as the guidance from senior Speech Pathologists in your team, you’ll find your feet as a clinician soon enough.
My Biggest Learning Curve as a New Grad Speech Pathologist
You’re not expected to know everything.
It is okay to not know everything at the start – you will learn so much just by running therapy sessions with your clients on a regular basis. Sure, not every session will be perfect and go the way you imagined it to, but the most important thing is to make sure you are listening to the client and engaging them, even if it is not related to what you initially planned.
Client cases aren’t as straightforward as they seem in university.
In university, client cases that you discuss are often pretty ‘textbook’. Everything has a straightforward solution, and treatment approaches typically follow a linear progression. However, as a new grad Speech Pathologist you’ll quickly learn how ‘untextbook’ every client case is. You’ll likely find that clients have multiple areas that could benefit from speech therapy, and each client will respond differently to different treatment approaches even if they have similar treatment goals.
Sometimes, you aren’t the right clinician for a client.
Something that can be quite hard for new grad Speech Pathologists to get comfortable with is the idea that sometimes you aren’t the right fit for a client – and that’s okay! Working in a team of Speech Pathologists with different personality types, interest areas and levels of expertise allows you the opportunity to of course, ask for input into client cases, but also to notice when a client may be better supported by a colleague. This is normal and not something to be ashamed of as a new graduate Speech Pathologist!
How I Was Supported as a New Grad Speech Pathologist
Supervision is so valuable.
You’re probably already aware of the Supervision requirements laid out by Speech Pathology Australia. But, as a new graduate Speech Pathologist, taking part in regular supervision can be the difference between surviving and thriving! Supervision is so valuable for growing your clinical skills, building your confidence, and creating a strong foundation for your Speech Pathology practice.
New grads at SpeechEase Speech Therapy benefit from extensive learning opportunities throughout their first year and beyond. This includes regular 1:1 supervision, group supervision, and in services facilitated by external professionals and colleagues who’ve attended professional development programs.
Professional development budget.
Finding an organisation that offers a generous and flexible professional development budget makes a world of difference! Even though you’ve just completed your degree, you’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to learn in the Speech Pathology profession. Professional Development programs bridge the gap, and once you’re familiar with your caseload, you’ll know which areas you need to upskill in. SpeechEase Speech Therapy offers a generous $5000 professional development budget and paid professional development leave per year to support new graduate Speech Pathologists in building a solid foundation of clinical knowledge.
How I Would Do Things Differently as a New Grad Speech Pathologist
Make the most of free Professional Development resources.
One of the best things about working in the Speech Pathology profession is the wealth of resources and free professional development available to you! There’s still plenty for you to learn as a new grad, and if you want to give yourself a leg up, looking into the free PD that’s relevant to your caseload is a great first step.
Prioritise your admin tasks.
It can be tempting to leave your admin tasks for the next day, but if you want to set yourself up for success as a new grad Speech Pathologist it’s a good idea to not let this habit get the best of you! Committing to completing your admin tasks on the day will not only ensure you’re making note of accurate information, but it will also help you to create a better work/life balance for yourself.
Here at SpeechEase Speech Therapy, Speech Pathologists can actually do their administrative tasks from home! This means we spend half of our day seeing clients in the clinic, and the other half working from wherever we choose to complete our important admin that requires our focused attention. We’ve found this to be a particularly helpful workday set-up for new grads!
Set clear goals and progress markers.
One of the principles of delivering Speech Pathology treatment is setting achievable, clear goals for your clients to achieve throughout their therapy journey. For new grads, one of the best ways to make sure you know if a client is progressing is to set good goals that are measurable! Having strong assessment measures pre and post therapy delivery can also support your ability to measure client progress and figure out if a treatment approach is working.
One of My Proudest Moments as a New Grad Speech Pathologist
Clients celebrating their progress.
Clinicians notice the small steps that make up progress towards a client achieving their therapy goals, but there’s nothing like when a client or their families can see it for themselves! It’s an exciting time when a client notices they’ve achieved something they’ve been working hard on in therapy. The way the client’s face lights up and the family celebrates the win is a moment that you’ll always remember as a Speech Pathologist. Make sure you write it down so you can come back to it during the times we’re it feels like nothing is going well!
Achieving independent communication.
For some clients, their main goal in accessing speech therapy is finding a way to independently communicate. Augmentative and Alternative Communication can be a pathway to this, and at SpeechEase Speech Therapy, we support our new grad Speech Pathologists to build their skills in supporting clients in this area.
Because of this, our new grads have experienced some incredible moments in their first year of practice. This includes helping clients to begin communicating independently with AAC for the first time! Supporting a client’s independence and self-determination in this way is truly rewarding.
Being there for the entire journey.
At university, you don’t really get the opportunity to work with a client from start to finish. For new grad Speech Pathologists being able to support clients from their initial appointment all the way through to providing therapy and eventually discharging them for reaching their goals is an incredible feeling. This is arguably one of the best things about being a fully-fledged Speech Pathologist!
Advice for New Grad Speech Pathologists
Be open to learning.
There’s no shame in having more to learn! In your first year as a Speech Pathologist be open to feedback and seek it out when you need a second opinion. Learning as you go is important in this field, as there is just so much out there, and the research is constantly evolving. The biggest mistake you could make is going into the job thinking you have all the knowledge you’ll need for the career because you have a degree!
If you’re ever unsure of what to do in a particular client case, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisors or even your fellow Speech Pathologists for their input. You’ll learn so much over the course of your first year, so be open to it and make time to reflect on your practice so you can continue your growth.
Be kind to yourself.
New grad Speech Pathologists can definitely feel a little overwhelmed as they start out in the field. The real world is so different from university, so be kind to yourself throughout your first year as you find your feet. Have realistic expectations of yourself and give yourself the time and room to grow.
Not every session will work out perfectly and that is okay! Learn from your experiences and focus on what is best for the client that is in front of you.
We hope you found these reflections and pieces of advice useful! And if you’re up for an adventure, take a look at our Regional Relocation program for Speech Pathologists and new graduates.
For more tips and tricks to help you on your way as a new grad Speech Pathologist, take a look at our other helpful blog posts.