The Journey to Speech Pathology Clinical Lead
If you’ve been a certified practising Speech Pathologist for a while now, you might be thinking about your next big career steps. But with so many options to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming to decide which direction to go in.
If you’re feeling stuck in your Speech Pathology career, the best thing you can do is to explore your options with an open mind. In this article, we’re going to explore one of the career pathways you can take as a Speech Pathologist – with the real-life example of one of our very own Speech Pathologists!
So sit back, grab a cuppa, and find out what Olivia’s journey from Speech Pathologist to Clinical Lead looked like.
Joining the SpeechEase Team
Olivia was always drawn to the caring professions. Originally thinking she wanted to pursue a career as a Vet, Olivia’s path quickly shifted towards Speech Pathology when she realised the impact she could have on people’s lives. Her greatest joy as a Speech Pathologist comes from being able to help her clients to achieve their full potential and confidently express who they are to the world.
After kicking off her Speech Pathology career working predominantly with paediatric clients and then in a community setting with adult clients, Olivia decided she wanted to find a role with a paediatric caseload focusing on supporting clients with disabilities. She knew she wanted to have access to great clinical resources and support, and most of all join a Speech Pathology practice that prioritised its clients and staff.
Olivia went to the same university as SpeechEase Managing Director, Kate Thomson, so when her search for a workplace with fantastic resources, support, and vision for their clients led her to SpeechEase, she knew she had to reach out. While she initially applied for a Speech Pathologist role, Olivia knew she wanted to take things up a notch. She wanted to build upon the leadership skills built from providing support to early career Speech Pathologists and Allied Health Assistants in previous roles.
Olivia joined the SpeechEase team in November 2019, and in January 2021 she officially made the leap to a Clinical Lead position (and hasn’t looked back since!).
What is the Difference Between Being a Senior Speech Pathologist and a Clinical Lead?
If you’re at the beginning of your career planning journey and haven’t stepped into a Senior Speech Pathologist role yet, you might be curious to know what makes a Clinical Leadership role so different. Let’s explore some of those key differences now.
Senior Speech Pathologists
To begin, let’s take a look at the role of a Senior Speech Pathologist. In just about any clinical context, a Senior Speech Pathologist is someone who is highly skilled and experienced in every aspect of clinical service delivery. They have honed their skills in communicating with families, clients, stakeholders, the community, and their colleagues. Their approach to therapy planning and intervention will be well-defined, evidence-based and innovative. They may support Speech Pathologists with less experience on their team and may also participate in providing peer supervision.
A Clinical Lead is generally a Senior Speech Pathologist with additional responsibilities. These responsibilities centre around continuous improvement from both a clinical and business leadership perspective. They are the person within the business who advocates for changes or improvements that will impact clients, families, staff, and the community within the clinic location. As you can imagine, it is a pretty important role!
Clinical leads will often continue to see clients on a clinical caseload but will simultaneously take on projects and leadership duties that will make up the rest of their full-time role.
One of the most important professional skills for a clinical lead to have is professional and balanced communication. They need to be objective and measured as they take information from one source (e.g. Speech Pathologists on the team, client feedback) and share it with the business leadership team to implement changes and decide on priority focus areas.
Clinical Leads (depending on the context) may take on some responsibilities handling challenging conversations with families and even supporting staff with incident management.
Why Become a Clinical Lead?
If you are a Speech Pathologist and you’re seriously considering whether becoming a Clinical Lead should be your next career goal, this is for you.
You might be wondering whether the additional responsibility, project management and team leadership aspects of the role are aligned with who you are and what you’d like to achieve with your career.
Here is what our very own Clinical Lead, Olivia, had to say when we asked her about what she loves about being a Clinical Lead at SpeechEase:
“I love supporting the team to make the workplace and the work they do more enjoyable, satisfying, stream-lined and effective. Having the opportunity to improve things, even with subtle changes, is a really rewarding aspect of the job. But ultimately, the most important thing about being a Clinical Lead for me is being able to build strong relationships with the therapists in the clinic and knowing individuals will reach out for support when they need it.”
We then asked Olivia what she believes are the most important qualities for a Speech Pathologist to possess before they become a Clinical Lead…
- Being perceptive – being able to pick up on subtle changes in others to know when to ask questions or offer support
- Moving between registers – as a Speech Pathologist you’ll already be good at communicating with others, but to be a Clinical Lead you’ll need to be able to change the way you communicate to suit individual people
- Empathy – you’ll need to be able to empathise with others’ opinions and perspectives, even when they may be different to your own
- Open to learning and trying out new things (therapy approaches, management styles)
- Genuine interest in taking the time to ask questions and explore options to find the best solution possible
- Self-awareness – being aware of areas where self-development is needed and when seeking external advice / support is required
How to Prepare for a Promotion to Clinical Leadership
If you have decided that becoming a Clinical Lead is the next step for you in your Speech Pathology career – congratulations! After sharing this goal with your supervisor, and exploring your options for promotion within your clinic, it’s time to start preparing for what is ahead.
Our advice is to take this next stage of your professional development one step at a time! Start by stepping up and providing one-on-one supervision to early career and new graduate Speech Pathologists in your organisation. Next, see if there are opportunities for you to take part in shaping any clinical or business projects. Use these projects as an opportunity to build up your communication and project management skills – focus on giving feedback, asking questions, joining the conversation, and doing it all with an open mind.
Another important communication skill you can focus on building as you prepare for a Clinical Lead promotion is simply asking ‘why’ when you come up against something you don’t understand. The more perspectives you can be open to understanding, the more information you will have to be able to work with others in a genuinely productive way.
Is Being a Clinical Lead Right for You?
If you feel passionate about your team, your clients, and your workplace, then you can channel this to have a positive impact.
Take the time to build relationships with your team. While trust, openness, and clear communication takes time and effort to build, it will have the greatest impact on your ability to work successfully with your whole team as Clinical Lead.