Top 5 Pieces of Advice for SLP Graduate Clinicians & Their Supervisors

Sunday, January 8, 2017

As I prep for my new SLP graduate clinician who starts this week, I sit reflecting on what I have learned as a supervisor as well as what I learned from my graduate placements years ago. I enlisted the help of some of my fellow SLP Bloggers to round out the Top 5 Pieces of Advice for both graduate clinicians and supervisors as you embark your school placement.  

Tip #1: Bring Your "A" Game

It is such an exciting time as an SLP graduate clinician  You are in the home stretch, a degree in Speech-Language Pathology is within arms' reach, yet you still have so much to learn. Take advantage of this time and take it seriously. Yes, you will likely be job hunting during your placement and may even secure employment during your experience. Think of this as your trial run. What work ethic legacy do you want to leave? You will likely remain in contact with your supervisor for many years to come. Earning a glowing reference goes a long way. 

On the flip side, if you are the supervisor the advice remains the same. Model the work ethic you want your clinician to emulate. Your graduate student is not there so you can kick your feet up and relax. At the beginning you may feel like a sportscaster, commenting on your every move. It can be exhausting, but know that it serves a greater purpose. Your student is there to learn from you and gain experience. Be present in the moment to give them the necessary feedback that may carry them throughout their career. The ripple effect is pretty awesome when you think about it!

Tip #2: Invest in Your Students

Graduate clinicians, get to know the students beyond what you read about them on paper. Interpersonal skills can make or break you as a therapist, both with coworkers and students. As people, we naturally work harder for those we like and feel are vested in our best interests. In graduate school you have studied theory and researched evidence based practice 24/7 which gives you the skills and knowledge base to practice as an SLP. However, I encourage you to make a conscious effort to get to know the student behind the data. That student is someone's son, daughter, brother, sister, their whole world. Hey, you never know, that student could be your colleague one day. 

As a supervisor, invest in your graduate clinician.  Find out what they want to take away from the experience. What do they like to do outside of speech (imagine there is actually life outside of graduate school, haha)? Can they incorporate those hobbies/interests into their therapy sessions or use them to establish rapport with the kids? What are their needs in regards to treatment/evaluation hours? Finding out at the beginning of the placement is much easier than scrambling to meet them at the end.

Tip #3: Tackle the Paperwork

Kaylaslp says, "I wish my supervisor had showed me more of the ins and outs of paperwork. She mostly only had me do therapy. I needed more guidance on how to word things, both in reports and for Medicaid-- I only partially wrote 1 IEP while I was there. Don't be afraid to ask for guidance because later you'll wish you had!"

Kayla, I completely agree. As a supervisor, I have been guilty in the past of not giving my students a heavy paperwork load. My intentions were to be helpful, but in the real world paperwork is a very time consuming part of our job which they need to experience while having access to constructive feedback. 

Tip #4: Ask Questions!

Kristen from Talkin' with Twang advises, "You will have questions. You will need advice. You will need help at some point. Don't be afraid to ask. Your supervisors are there to guide you and continue the learning process. You won't know what to do in every situation and that's okay! Have confidence and enjoy every minute. You chose an excellent career!"

Hallie with Speech TimeFun agrees, adding "I wish I knew to ask more questions and it was ok to not know it all!"

YES!!! News Flash. 16 years in and I STILL do not know it all. That is the one of the perks of our field. You should never stop learning and self-reflecting on your practice! 

Tip #5: Take Chances

As a student, Felice from The Dabbling Speechie wished she took more chances and was okay with messing up, adding "I continue to mess up and that's when I have learned the most."  

As a supervisor, taking a clinician in January, Felice said that she hopes to "understand my student's learning and communication style, so I can give feedback and help in a way that is best for them to learn and feel comfortable."

Susan from Kidz Learn Language added, “My supervisor came from a really rigid grad program where lesson plans were handed in weeks in advance. [...]  I wasn't supposed to change the script to accommodate for the particular kids' needs, just change the kids.” In learning from the experience, when she has supervised students, “I've always tried to be open to their suggestions and to answer their questions as fully as possible. I don't believe in telling students (or a CF) to do it a certain way without explaining why and/or being open to other ideas. I also encourage asking questions. As often as needed, as many as needed. They're supposed to be learning from us, so I want to give them all I can.”

Mandi from Panda Speech included, "As a student I wished my supervisors placed more emphasis on EBP. None of my supervisors even touched on it. As a result I have my students do a small EBP project every semester (I've been a supervisor for almost 5 years). I also wish my supervisors made a syllabus or guidelines (what to expect, policies, schedule, rules, etc.) I give a document like this to them before they begin and I also provide them with sample lesson plans."

In the spirit of learning and pushing your limits, I have been stepping outside my comfort zone by stepping into the world of video. Click on the video above to watch the SLP Blogger Live show in which I break down this Top 5 List for you.

P.S. Because great minds really do think alike, let me also share with you a link to Let's Talk Speech Therapy where Rachel shared her tips on Supervising SLP Students

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