You're an SL- What?: Life as a Travel SLP

 Next up for the SL-What? Series is Julia aka The Traveling Traveler! If you love travel, gorgeous photos, and/or speech-language pathology, you will LOVE her!! She is an incredible photographer, beautiful human, and spectacular SLP! Check her out!!

My name is Julia Kuhn and I have been a practicing SLP since 2009.  My specialty is adult neurogenic rehab and I currently work in an acute care hospital in Hawaii.  Travel therapy has allowed me to combine my love of travel and speech pathology.  To date, I have worked over 20 travel therapy contracts in 5 states from Hawaii to Massachusetts .  I am the blogger behind The Traveling Traveler, which shares resources, inspiration and tips for traveling therapists.  

My SLP career began as a Clinical Fellow in a Skilled Nursing Facility.  My passion for travel was leading me to use all of my PTO days to explore the world.   Frustrated with the lack of PTO days in a permanent position, I turned to travel therapy in 2010.  As a traveler, you can work a 13-week contract and then choose when or where you want to go again.  Travel therapy has helped me to see the country and travel to over 15 counties.  I have attended Spanish language school in Mexico and Costa Rica and got to check many destinations off of my bucket list! 

As a novice traveling therapist, I knew very little about being a traveler.  Learning happened through trial and error and networking with experienced travelers.  In 2014, I started a Facebook Group to connect traveling therapists called Travel Therapy Therapists. The group started with 20 of my friends and it has grown to over 6k members. 2 years later, I started writing a blog to provide more resources for travelers. 

When I was 16 years old, I began working in the activities and dietary department of a skilled nursing facility.  In dietary, I spent my days doing trayline, preparing thickened liquids and modified diet textures to serve at meals.  

Interacting with residents at the nursing home was my favorite part of the job!  In college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.  I kept on coming back to the fact that I loved my job at the nursing home.  I researched the roles and people working in the SNF and that is how I found speech pathology!  

My current position is in a small, acute care hospital that services mostly geriatric patients.  As a traveling therapist, I have had the opportunity to work in adult settings at every level of care, which has been valuable to my professional growth.  It has been helpful  to understand the healthcare continuum of care and be able to explain that to my patients and their families.  

The majority of my career has been working in skilled nursing facilities.  I have also worked in level 1 trauma centers, inpatient rehab, brain injury units, LTACs, treated outpatients and even completed some home health visits. Patients ages have ranged from 18 years old to over 100 years old!

While it varies from setting to setting, my primary role as a clinician is to diagnose and treat impairments of language, cognitive-communication and swallowing.    

A benefit of being a traveler is getting to collaborate and learn from a plethora of individuals. From physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, nurses, nursing aides, dietitians and doctors.  Every clinician has something new to share and teach others.   Every assignment as an opportunity to learn something new!

The biggest challenge as a traveler has been the lack of consistency in jobs and not knowing what is next.  As a traveler, you sign on to work a 13 week contract.  At the end of that 13 weeks, you are unemployed and looking for a new contract.   It can be stressful to be constantly looking for a new job and finding new housing to accompany that location.  Travel therapy has taught me to go with the flow and be very flexible.  I live by the motto that “everything happens for a reason” and “life is about the journey”.  

Being able to help patients achieve their personal goals the greatest reward for me!  As a traveler, I often go into buildings that have been under staffed or lacking consistent SLP coverage.  It is rewarding to treat patients who were not able to get services that they needed in the past. 

One of my favorite moments as a clinician was when a patient wrote me a thank you card for helping her advance her diet and resolve her dysphagia.  At the bottom of the card she wrote “this card is the first thing I have written since my stroke [which was years ago]”   I cried when I read the card and realized that the swallowing treatment had such an impact on her life and well being.   

One of my favorite experiences was working in an inpatient rehab facility that treated patients with acute strokes and brain injuries.  This facility had an exceptional team that was constantly collaborating and learning from each other.  It forced me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to perform better as a clinician. It was a great team to work with and we had wonderful patients that made great gains. 

If I could teach the world one thing about our field that most people don’t know, it would be that we work with swallowing!  It would be nice not to get the blank stare when I introduce myself as a speech pathologist who is going to evaluate swallowing.  

I am a coffee and sushi lover, avid hiker, traveler, and wannabe photographer. Travel therapy has been an important part of my career because it gave me the flexibility to pursue my passions while traveling the country and the world. Travel has molded me into an experienced and confident clinician who can better serve my patients.  If you are thinking about becoming a traveling therapist, feel free to reach out to me or join the Travel Therapy Therapists Group on Facebook! You can also follow my adventures on Instagram.  Happy Travels! 

Thank you so much, Julia! I love keeping up with your travels and adventures! You always light up my feed with your gorgeous photos and bright spirit! So thankful for social media introducing me to your blog!

You're an SL- What?: Life as a Home Health SLP

Happy holiday season, my friends! I hope everyone is staying warm and cheerful and sane! For those of you who get a winter break, you're SO close! For those, like myself, who don't, just remember all the reasons we love what we do! My friend Abby is our next guest in the You're an SL-What? series to tell us all about home health. Her personal story of how she found this field is incredible! You'll be glad you're reading this one!

I am a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist in the state of Oklahoma. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Oklahoma State University in 2013 and Master of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Oklahoma State University in 2015 with a 4.0 GPA. I have experience working with both adult and pediatric populations in outpatient rehabilitation, inpatient rehabilitation, hospital, skilled nursing, home health care, and private practice settings. In my free time I volunteer with my therapy dog, Annee, to provide comfort, companionship, and joy to individuals in a variety of settings. I also enjoy volunteering my time as a counselor at Camp Sunrise, a camp for brain injury conquerors. In March of 2017 I officially opened my private practice, Advanced Therapy Solutions, LLC, where I work part time serving pediatrics and adults in the Stillwater, OK, community. In addition to my private practice, I work PRN at Stillwater Medical Center where I divide my time between Home Health, as well as inpatient rehabilitation and acute cure.

I learned about Speech-Language Pathology as an undergraduate attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I was interested in rehabilitation fields after recently being involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffering three fractured vertebrae in my neck and undergoing anterior cervical discectomy and fusion as well as posterior cervical fusion in 2009. I transferred to Oklahoma Stated University in January of 2011 and immediately fell in love with the undergraduate coursework. During my Intro to Communication Sciences and Disorders class my first semester at OSU we had a guest speaker come into our class, and she was discussing voice disorders and had mentioned spinal cord injuries as well as many other etiologies. At this time, it had been just over two years since my motor vehicle accident and I continued to have chronic difficulty with my voice and breathing that four doctors had dismissed as me being “out of shape” even though I exercised under the direction of athletic trainers multiple time per week at that time and was a member of a dance team.  After our guest speaker concluded her lecture I went up and talked to her at the end of the class, and she said could immediately hear it in my voice that something was not right. She referred me to an ENT and started me in voice therapy soon after for what I know now was right unilateral vocal cord paralysis. My voice improved significantly as a result of participation in speech therapy. Those two-and-a-half years that I could not speak loud enough to order in a restaurant or talk without running out of breath gave me a unique perspective that makes me a better therapist, as I know first-hand the impact that communication and swallowing disorders have on a person’s life. 

I have a pediatric and adult private practice, but I also spend close to half of my time seeing patient’s in their homes as a Speech-Language Pathologist for Stillwater Medical Center Home Health within a 50-mile radius of our home office.  In home health I work primarily with adults and geriatrics. Common diagnoses I work with include aphasia, dysphagia, dysarthria, cognitive-communicative disorders, and dementia. We have an outstanding collaborative team that includes nurses, aides, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, and a social worker. 

The greatest challenge that I face working in home health is not having the support of other disciplines present in the home when you are there for a visit. You can’t walk into the hallway and get the assistance of a nurse or physical therapist when immediate support is needed, as you can in inpatient rehab or acute care. Home health is a field where multidisplinary education and knowledge are important because sometimes when the patient has immediate needs or concerns you take on roles that you normally wouldn’t because you are the only health care provider in a home. As a result, communication and team work are crucial in home health in order to provide out patients with the support and quality of care that they need to remain safe in their home and reach their personal goals. Another challenge, that I see as more of a benefit than a challenge, is having to perform therapy in the patient’s home with limited resources in comparison to your typical therapy environment. I enjoy the challenge and the opportunity for creativity to make therapy as functional as possible in the patient’s home. Being able to maximize the patient’s safety and functional independence in their home makes home health one of the most rewarding environments to work in. 

The greatest reward in my job is being able to be a part of a team that is helping people overcome some of the biggest obstacles they will every face through rehabilitation. I love being able to see improvements in my patient’s ability to communicate, eat and drink safely, and perform daily activities with increased safety and independence through their rehabilitation and regain their quality of life. Is it an amazing feeling to watch a patient meet a goal, and then continue to watch him/her make progress over time. Let me tell you how awesome it is to watch a patient go from having little to no words to speaking in short sentences, or not being able to eat or drink anything by mouth to being able to have a meal that they wished to be able safely eat for months prior to that time. It can bring tears to your eyes. I also find that working with individuals with dementia and their families is a rewarding population.  I frequently provide services to patients and caregivers of individuals with dementia that without the support wouldn’t be able to remain safe in their home, and I love educating and empowering these families and caregivers. Treatment primarily consists of caregiver education and training and establishment of external aids and strategies in the patient’s home environment, but these supports and strategies can make a world of difference for the families of these patients and can often be the deciding factor between whether the patient will be able to remain in their home or require placement in a higher level of care.   

If I could teach the world one thing about our field, it would be the diversity that we work with! I spread the word everywhere I can that Speech-Language Pathology is not all about speech, but encompasses every function that impacts our ability to communicate and swallow. As SLPs we graduate with a master’s degree and the training to work in any setting, but we also have the ability to specialize in the areas of our field that we have a passion for. This may mean working exclusively with children or adults, or for some this may mean specializing by disorder and providing interventions only for swallowing, voice, stuttering, or motor speech disorders. I am grateful that I have the opportunity and ability to stay educated and work in several diverse areas of our profession. Knowing that I am improving my patients’ quality of life and functioning with my interventions is the very reason I do what I do.

Thank you so much, Abby! I’m truly inspired by your personal experience with voice disorders as well as your vast experience as an SLP! You’re such an asset to our field!!

You're An SL- What?: Life as a SNF SLP

Hey hey, SLP friends! I'm excited to get back to the "You're an SL- What?" Series with one of my SLP best friends! Caroline was my neighbor and study buddy in grad school. I wouldn't have made it through without her! She's incredibly skilled at what she does and is always a great resource for me when I need a sounding board! Check out her experience!

Hi, my name is Caroline Baumunk. I graduated with my bachelors and masters from OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma. I have been working as a SLP for 4 years - one year in a pediatric private practice, and three years in SNF facilities. 

I first learned about speech pathology when I was a senior in high school. I would go to family functions and my cousin and cousin-in-law (who are both SLPs) would constantly talk about how much they loved their jobs and what they do. I was immediately interested because I was unsure of what I wanted to major in and they made it sound so great! I was interested in the health field and wanted a job where I could help people, but did not want to go the nurse or MD route. The more I looked into what a SLP actually “does” I was drawn to it even more. I loved the idea of how many various settings there were, thinking if I got tired of one I could try another. I also loved the amount of positive impact you could make on a person by doing speech therapy with them (in any setting), which is what I wanted most in a job. I shadowed both of my cousins multiple times and decided going into college to start on the path toward become a SLP. 

Graduation Day

I currently work at a CCRC, or Continuing Care Retirement Community. This type of community includes independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing (SNF,) long term care, and a locked memory care unit. I work primarily with patients in the skilled nursing who are there for rehab, long term care patients and memory care patients. I do have some outpatient appointments in Assisted Living Facilities (ALF) and Independent Living Facilities (ILF) though. This is different from other settings because we have such a wide range of patients to be seen. I have patients from 40 years old to over 100 years old on my caseload at any given time. Being this type of facility, a lot of the patients we get in the SNF come from our ILF and ALF, a lot of which come after having falls at home. Cognition is one of the primary things I address, especially memory, sequencing, safety, and finding ways to improve the patient’s safety and independence with completing their activities of daily living (ADLs) - think bathing, dressing, grooming, cooking, cleaning, leisure activities, etc. I also have a heavy dysphagia caseload. We have a significant amount of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnoses, which often require diet modifications due to the progression of the disease. Our facility has recently become “behavior health” certified because of the amount of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients we have. It has been challenging but fun learning how to work with this population, as I did not have a lot of experience prior to this. 

One of the greatest challenges I have had thus far is building up the speech department. The company I work for acquired this MASSIVE facility back in July (when I started) and the previous company had not done a great job with therapy. There were only 3 (!!!) people on the SLP caseload when I got there. This was quite a shock, as there are around 170 LTC beds and 50 memory care unit beds. To piggyback on the facility not previously having a strong therapy presence, I had the job of educating everyone (nurses, CNAs, dietary, etc) on what I actually DO and trying to implement new, more efficient ways of doing things. This initially was not well received because it wasn’t “how things have always been done”. I have made a lot of progress in educating people, doing multiple in-services at “all staff” meetings on the role of the SLP, diet modifications and prevention of aspiration/choking. Some days it still feels like an uphill battle, but it inspires me to look at much improvement we’ve made in the past 8 months, and think of where we will be in another 8 months. 

The greatest reward for me working in this facility is seeing progress not only with the patients but with the staff as well. When a I see staff members correctly following diet recommendations and following through with education I’ve provided, it makes me feel like i’m doing something right. Seeing a patient make progress and do things they didn’t think they could do anymore because they think they’re “too old”, seeing a patient be able to return back home independently, upgrading a diet for someone who has been eating puree and thickened liquids - those are the things that keep me coming back each day. My favorite experience being a SLP is just hearing patients and families say “thank you” and noticing how I was able to help them and their family members. I feel like speech therapy is often a thankless job, and I it feels nice when people notice how much you care, and the work you put in to help them. 

The one thing that I teach people almost every day about our field, is that we don’t JUST work on speech and talking. We also do thinking and swallowing :)

Celebrating passing our comps together!

Thank you SO much, Caroline, for taking the time to be a part of this series! I am so proud to call you a friend and to share this field with you! 

You're an SL- What?: Voice and Swallowing Specialist SLP

Hey hey, SLP friends! It has been a minute since my last post but I’m excited to jump back into the You’re and SL- What series! Next is a fellow Tulsan, Tiffany Turner. Before I moved home, I was a huge fan of all of her resources and her specialty I’ve had the honor of getting to know her and bump elbows at events since I’ve been home in Oklahoma! Tiffany fills a very large need and very specific niche in our area. I’ll let her tell you herself!

Last year I became Oklahoma’s 4th adult focused board certified specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders. I own a regional swallowing and voice center in Tulsa, OK, Swallowing and Neurological Rehabilitation (SNR). I founded SNR in 2014 to fill a need I saw in our community for more specialized adult services. At SNR, my team and I perform fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) and videostroboscopy diagnostic procedures for patients throughout Oklahoma, both in our clinic and via mobile contracts with SNFs, small hospitals, etc. We also provide rehabilitation services for many types of acquired and progressive swallowing, voice, speech-language, and cognitive deficits. My team and I also host a dysphagia support workshop, a primary progressive aphasia support group, and a weekly voice maintenance group for patients with Parkinson’s disease. 

Another passion of mine is mentoring other speech-language pathologists. I’ve published several clinical resources for speech-language pathologists which have been downloaded by thousands of SLPs worldwide. They are available on my website at I also write guest articles for other national and local publications to raise awareness of my specialty niche along with giving guest lectures at local universities and other community events frequently. 

Tiffany and I at her event in Tulsa, March 2018

How did you learn about our field? Why did you become an SLP?

I was actually originally a secondary math education major, but after taking a substitute role early in college, I quickly learned that I liked helping people one on one rather than in the classroom setting. I’d also always had an interest in the medical field, so as I explored options, speech pathology seemed like a good mix of education and medical, my two main interests. Before looking into the profession as I was searching for a new major, I had never even heard of it. In general, I think our field is very misunderstood and underutilized, which is why I’m so passionate about raising awareness!

Give a description of the setting and population you work with.

I kind of mentioned this in my bio, but at Swallowing and Neurological Rehabilitation, we specialize in adult diagnostics and treatment for swallowing, voice, speech-language, and cognition. A couple specialty niches I have are fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) and videostroboscopy voice assessments. I complete endoscopies for several local ENTs who we work closely with, and my team and I also now provide mobile swallowing and voice diagnostics to help out our SLP colleagues in other settings with more limited access to instrumentals. Another unique specialty I have is working with progressive neurological conditions. I am on Tulsa’s Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) team where I serve at the monthly ALS clinic. My role there includes treating swallowing and assisting with voice recording early on since most of these patients will eventually lose their ability to speak.  I help them order and train on alternative communication devices as their disease progresses. 

What is the greatest challenge you face in your specific setting that may be different from other settings? 

Private practice with adults is very tough. Unlike a pediatric private practice (where you build a caseload and see those same kiddos for therapy for many years in many cases), with adults you only see them a handful of times, sometimes only once for diagnostics. I get patients who drive in from all over the state and region and have to serve a wide area and receive constant referrals each week to be able to maintain a caseload. Friends who own pediatric private practices on the other hand get much fewer new referrals coming in each week than I do but can grow much more quickly since their patients are mostly all long-term. 

What is the greatest reward for you in your job?

I love seeing results and seeing people get better! We have so many patients who come to our clinic on a feeding tube, and a few short weeks later, they are eating fully by mouth again and are able to get their feeding tube removed. Swallowing has always been my favorite area to treat because the results are so rewarding. I love to eat, so I love to help other people eat!

If you could teach the world one thing about our field that most people don’t know, what would it be?

Speech-language pathologists work with so much more than just speech. In fact, I rarely work with speech at all myself. Our field is very broad, and there are so many subspecialties within that. “Speech- language-swallowing-voice-cognitive pathologist” would be a much more fitting title, although it would be tough to fit on a nametag! If you’re looking for services for a particular area (e.g., swallowing, etc.), be sure to find someone who specializes in that area. 

Thank you so much, Tiffany!! If you would like to know more about her or her resources, make sure to check out her website! I can tell you first hand, they've been extremely helpful for me as a newbie and even still a few years in! Stay tuned for the next piece of this series coming August 19th!

You're an SL- What?: Life as an Acute Care SLP

Hey hey, friends!! Up next in the "You're an SL- What?" Series is another of my favorite SLPs! (And I want to be her when I grow up! #fangirl)

Carmin Bartow is a rockstar in the SLP world and I am lucky enough to know her personally! I adore her on all levels! If you want to know more about her work, obviously read below, but you can catch her on the Swallow Your Pride Podcast as well! (I'm slightly obsessed with SYP!) 

I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Eastern Illinois University.  I have been a practicing SLP for over 20 years (which is what I'm saying from now on...a slightly vague "over 20 years") and am a Board Certified Specialist in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. The majority of my career has been spent evaluating and treating adult patients in medical settings such as home health, skilled nursing facilities, long-term acute care hospitals and acute care hospitals.  I have been employed a Vanderbilt University Medical Center for the past 15 years and I love my job! My areas of specialty are dysphagia, head and neck cancer, and communication and swallowing disorders related to tracheostomy and ventilator dependence. In addition to my clinical responsibilities, I facilitate a head and neck cancer support group and enjoy presenting and teaching at Vanderbilt as well as at state and national conferences.  In 2015, I authored an ASHA publication entitled “Management of Communication and Swallowing Impairments Related to Artificial Airways”.  I have been an adjunct instructor for Tennessee State University teaching Dysphagia both on-site as well as through the distance education program.  I frequently supervise Vanderbilt graduate students and enjoy introducing them to the world of acute care.  I have been an Educational Consultant for Passy Muir, Inc. for many years.  That opportunity has allowed me to travel throughout the US teaching SLPs, nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists about tracheostomy tubes and speaking valves.  Overall, it has been a very good “over 20 years”!

How did you learn about our field? Why did you become an SLP?

I was majoring in Elementary Education in college.  I did a classroom observation at the end of my freshman year and was seriously horrified!  I sat in the back of that classroom thinking there is no way I could do this. Yikes!  It was definitely time to rethink my career choice!  Fortunately, my mom was a guidance counselor at a community college and she encouraged me take a career assessment test.  Speech pathologist was listed in the top 5 professions I should consider.  I did a little researching and luckily the school I attended had a communication disorders and sciences major – so I went for it.  After attending a few classes and learning more about the profession, I knew it was a great fit me.  
Give a description of the setting and population you work with. How is this different from other settings/populations?
I work in a large teaching hospital.  Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) has approximately 800 beds, 8 ICUs and is a Level 1 Trauma Center.  I work with both inpatients and outpatients conducting FEES, VFSS and providing a variety of speech and swallow assessments and treatments throughout the hospital. One aspect that is different with a teaching hospital is the daily interaction I have with medical students, interns and residents.  It is a great environment to teach our future MDs about the important role of the SLP in acute care. 

Do you collaborate with other disciplines? 

Yes, I frequently collaborate with dieticians, nurses, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, OTs, and PTs.  That collaboration is one of the aspects of my job that I really enjoy.  I have learned so much from these other disciplines and I know that using a team approach to care can result in the best patient outcomes.
Another example of collaboration is the Vanderbilt Multidisciplinary Tracheostomy Consult Service.  This service did not exist for years and there were many inconsistencies in tracheostomy care including referrals to speech pathology. I worked hard with several people from various disciplines (nursing, ENT surgeon, Trauma MD, respiratory therapy) to implement a trach team at VUMC.  After a multi-year endeavor, our efforts finally came to fruition.  The VUMC Trach Team exists!  I am part of this team along with a nurse practitioner, nurse proceduralist and MD.  Our team has significantly improved and standardized tracheostomy care in our facility. (Be on the look out for our first publication in SIG 13 Perspectives this year).

What are common diagnoses that you see?

Our SLP team evaluates and treats patients throughout the hospital with a variety of speech / language / cognitive and swallowing disorders.  

My particular areas of interest are:
  • Iatrogenic dysphagia (such as post-extubation dysphagia, radiation associated dysphagia and dysphagia associated with tracheostomy)
  • Dysphagia due to primary diagnosis  (such as stroke, TBI, and neurodegenerative disease)
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Communication impairments associated with tracheostomy and ventilator dependency
  • I spend the majority of my day working in the intensive care units. 

What is the greatest challenge you face in your specific setting that may be different from other settings?

Too many patients. Too little time.  Each acute care SLP starts the day with a full caseload of patients.  However, new referrals are entered all day, in all units throughout the hospital. Some days it is difficult to keep up!  Although it is often super busy and intense, I definitely enjoy the fast paced, think-on-your-feet environment of acute care.  

What is the greatest reward for you in your job?

I’ll give a 2 part response…
The most rewarding thing I do in my daily patient intervention is restoring communication to patients with tracheostomy and ventilator dependence.  There is quite a bit of research about ICU patients with tracheostomy experiencing delirium, depression, frustration, loss of dignity, and poor quality of life.  I know that a significant contributing factor is the inability to effectively communicate. When I can restore communication for these patients I know I’m making a difference.  There are many days that I’m holding back tears (sometimes unsuccessfully) as patients and families talk to each other, sometimes for the first time in quite a while.

Another very rewarding experience is facilitating a head and neck cancer support group at Gilda's Club Middle Tennessee.  We are a local chapter of SPOHNC (Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer) and have approximately 40 members.  I have learned so much from this awesome, inspiring, and supportive group of people!   

If you could teach the world one thing about our field that most people don’t know, what would it be?

Hmmm….that is a hard one!  I’m not sure about teaching the world, but I’ll share something I’m doing to teach other SLPs about medical speech pathology. We all learn the importance of evidence-based practice, but it is difficult to stay current and well versed in everything related to medical speech pathology. And, it is very difficult to find a good medical speech pathology course!  So, 3 years ago my SLP colleagues and I decided to host our very first “Medical Speech Pathology: Best Practices” course.  Our focus is to discuss best practices in the diagnosis and treatment of communication and swallowing disorders for adults with a variety of diagnoses. Our conference focuses on practical approaches to managing these patients and emphasizes the importance of implementing evidence-based practice in daily evaluation and treatment. We have presented on a variety of topics relevant to the medical SLP such as head and neck cancer, trach / vent, dysphagia evaluation and treatment, movement disorders, TBI, palliative care, delirium, and aphasia. In addition, our physician colleagues from various areas such as radiology, medical oncology, neurology, ENT, and trauma have presented at our conference to share their expertise and to highlight the importance of collaboration between the physician and the speech-language pathologist.  We have received great feedback from attendees and are enthusiastic about our next conference in February, 2019!

Anything else you’d like to include about yourself, your job/setting, or anything SLP related.

I was asked to give a lecture on the topic of “lifelong learning” recently. I’ll admit that I had some eye rolling moments when thinking about how to prepare for that talk. What do I know about lifelong learning? But as I started preparing for it, I realized that lifelong learning has really been key for me.  Continuing to learn, grow, take on challenges and seek new opportunities is what has kept me passionate about my career. I know my professional life would have been much less satisfying and probably a bit boring if I remained stagnate.  So, for any CFYs or young clinicians reading this, I would encourage you to find your niche and seek opportunities to grow, develop new skills, take on challenges and to keep learning.

Thank you so much, Carmin! You are such an incredible asset to our field, role model for all of us SLP babies, and a wonderful woman overall! I count myself blessed to know you!

You're an SL- What?: Life as an SLP Blogger

In the pediatric speech world, you have to live under a rock if you've never heard of my next guest. She's the OG blogger and SLP TPTer. She wears allll of the hats and does allll of the things! Basically, I adore her and am so thankful to know her! She is a true trail blazer and an asset to our field! Mrs. Jenna (Rayburn) Kirk!

My name is Jenna (Rayburn) Kirk, MA, CCC-SLP. I live in Dublin, Ohio with my husband and our two dogs! I’m in my 8th year as an SLP. I went to Ohio University and The Ohio State University and studied speech-language pathology all the way through my education. 
I currently work as a preschool SLP in a public school. I’ve had experience in the clinical setting as well.  I always describe myself as a person who not only has a passion for doing the therapy part of our job, but as someone with a  passion for educational resource design and professional development for SLPs too. I pretty much love everything about our job except for the paperwork. 
After my CF, I started a website ( where I share ideas and my journey as an SLP. I love the idea of peeking behind the curtains into someone else’s world. When I started sharing, not many people were really doing that yet. Now when you search for #speechtherapy, you get hundreds of ideas, but back then there were just a lonely few of us! 
I’ve presented on a variety of relevant topics to school-based speech-language pathologist including presentations at ASHA and ASHA Schools. Creating resources for other SLPs makes me feel like I really make an impact for not only my fellow SLPs but for the student they serve. I get to reach well past the 50 students on my own caseload and help children all across the country. That’s pretty amazing.  

How did you learn about our field? Why did you become an SLP?
I grew up next to a family with a child with autism spectrum disorder. I got to see what therapists did up close when they were in their home for therapy. It made it easy to see this was the perfect job for me! 

Give a description of the setting and population you work with. How is this different from other settings/populations?
I like to call myself an accidental entrepreneur. My dad tried to convince me to take some business classes in school in case I wanted to open my own clinic. I totally refused because the idea of owning my own business just never really sounded like something I wanted to do.   I started writing about speech therapy in 2011. From the beginning, my goal has been to connect with other professionals and to share what’s happening in my daily grind. Well, maybe not EVERYTHING. I try to share what works well! You can see my #SLPfails on Instagram though!
Shortly after I got started, Speech Room News turned from a hobby into a business. I realized I could take my passion for working with special needs children, my passion for problem solving, and my passion for crafting and make my own speech therapy materials. Like all passion projects, this one didn’t start as a business to make money. It started because I love to share, collaborate, and learn. Now that SRN is such a big part of my life, I’m happy to consider it not only my passion but a full-time job. Working as an educational  resource designer gives me the freedom to be really creative. Instead of sitting and wishing I had a resource when I’m working with a student, instead I sit and think about how I could create what I need. I usually create something really specific to a single student or my caseload. Then I think of ways to expand it to make it useful for more types of students. Then I dig deep to create something that’s also visually appealing and engaging for students. 

What is the greatest challenge you face in your specific setting that may be different from other settings?
When you’re creating something new, there is a risk there. For me, that can be the most difficult part.  You have the responsibility to know what is actually functional in therapy and the current research supporting that idea. Sometimes, I spends weeks making something and then decide it isn’t efficient enough for my liking and I start all over. Even if all goes well in the design, I might spend a month making a resource and then I have to wait and see if other SLPs think it’s something that will work for them too. I’m always waiting to hear what people think of a resource I’ve made. You’ll often catch me adding to resources once people in other settings use them because I want them to be as useful as possible.   I really pour my heart and soul into the things I create, and because I also work full-time as an SLP, that means I spend my nights and weekends creating. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. I also refuse to give up the social life I love, so that usually means less sleep. I’m my most creative from 9pm-midnight. 

What is the greatest reward for you in your job?
My greatest reward is getting an email from an SLP who has been struggling to do to much, who finds my resources, and realizes there’s a faster, easier, or better way to do something. If I help her love her job again, I’m over the moon. One sweet email like that from a fellow SLP, fuels my passion to create for a whole month. 

What has been one of your favorite experiences as an SLP?
Being part of an invited speaker panel at the 2016 ASHA convention was something I never thought would happen! What an honor to be brought on board my ASHA’s social media manager, Kelly. I loved sharing about social media with other SLPs who run clinics or university departments. 

I’m beyond honored that other SLPs utilize my resources to make their therapy more fun, efficient, or streamlined. It’s amazing how connected we are in our profession right now.  Technology and social media get a bad rap sometimes but I think it’s really bringing SLPs together in ways we never could’ve done before. The use of social media and blogs to share the ins and outs of our profession is growing to be an important part of the culture of speech language pathologists. I’m really proud to be apart of that. 

You're an SL- What?: Life of a High School SLP

Greetings!!  My name and professional title is Monica Judy, MS, CCC-SLP.  I am a pediatric speech language pathologist.  I received my master’s degree in 2004 from the University of Tulsa, OK.  I have worked in many environments since graduation including outpatient clinics, home health, teletherapy, and schools, providing speech therapy services to teenagers and young adults.  
I had an early knowledge of the speech therapy world as both my Mom and brother have received speech therapy as they were growing up.  I have always known I would work in the medical field and had a great passion for language.  Speech language pathology was the perfect fit for me.
I currently provide speech therapy services to teenage youth via teletherapy and in the traditional school setting.  I work with the individual student in my teletherapy sessions, which is essentially conducting a traditional therapy session via Skype.  I enjoy this model as it is a more relaxed setting.  The student is very comfortable in their home or classroom and I get to know the student on a personal level; where I develop the sessions specifically to them, their interests, and needs.  My students in the traditional school setting, I typically see in a much more collaborative role in a group setting in their classroom.  I work directly with the classroom teacher to provide them support in order to give them the tools and strategies to help the student be most successful in their communications in the academic setting.  I work with teens with varying diagnoses and needs.  I work with neurotypical teens who struggle to produce articulation sounds or have decreased vocabularies, students who have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI), and teens diagnosed with Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism Spectrum Disorder or other cognitive/developmental delays.   
The greatest challenge for me is the time limitations or qualifications for students in the academic setting.  I feel the academic framework at times does not allow for the amount of time that the student may need for varying reasons including caseload numbers and qualification standards for therapy services. 
The greatest reward of my job is to provide my students with positivity and support so that they can reach their fullest potential.  I love helping my students find and utilize their voice no matter the mode of communication. 
My most favorite journey is when I have helped a child who was nonverbal and had no communication grow and flourish into a young lady who now is able to use her vocabulary of words and phrases to say I love you to her family.  
If I could teach the world one thing about our field…it would be the importance and value of words or communication.  That a manual sign, picture, or spoken word all hold significant value and deserve the chance to be heard.
I absolutely love my job!!  I find the greatest joy in helping my speech kids shine their light and helping their families and teachers in supporting that child be their best self!!
Monica Judy, MS, CCC-SLP

Thank you, Ms. Monica! The high school setting is one that I find so interesting and is definitely a special niche! Your students are so lucky to have you and I feel so lucky to know you! 

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