|Speech and Language Therapist
|Large business (250+ employees)
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A day in the life of a Speech and Language Therapist in the United Kingdom
Don’t be afraid to change direction, even if it means starting at the bottom, as it will pay off eventually.
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
I work across two small district NHS hospitals in neurorehabilitative settings with adults.
What do you do?
I work as part of a large multidisciplinary team providing specialist assessment and therapy to individuals who have suffered strokes and brain injuries. As a speech and language therapist my primary focus is on communication and cognition, which are frequently damaged or impaired following any kind of neurological injury, but I will in time be joining my colleagues in providing assessment and therapy for dysphagia or disordered swallowing, which is a vital part of rehabilitation as it ensures that individuals remain healthy and free of infection whilst in the rehabilitative settings and beyond.
Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?
I graduated into a recession, meaning that there were few job opportunities in the traditional sectors that history graduates go into at the time, namely law and accountancy. So one of the first jobs I got on graduation was working in a care home. From this I knew I probably wanted to do something care related. Having also worked in teaching English as a second language briefly before getting this job, however, I knew that I wanted a role with an education element. I was working as a tutor by then, however, and was wary of teaching, however, as I preferred working with small groups and individuals. After I had my first child, I discovered speech and language therapy by accident when a friend of mine was referred to a speech and language therapist with a severe feeding disorder. Everything fell into place from there.
Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?
My A level choices (English, History and Psychology) might have predicted this career choice in a vague way, but my degree choice itself isn’t your standard route into the health sector. However, there are considerable transferable skills from History to health. The clue is in the terminology: case history anyone?
Describe your most memorable day at work
Probably my first. I’ve not been doing this for very long and my first day involved shadowing my supervisor as she did her swallowing assessments during the height of the COVID outbreak. I was drenched from the PPE and discovered exactly how much of our role involves being able to see a patient’s face. It was a brave new world in every respect!
Are there any challenges associated with your job?
Speech and language therapy is a tiny profession compared to the other healthcare professions. This doesn’t reflect the crucial role SLTs play in healthcare and education, but it does mean that we have to fight for recognition more than most. Patients and families often don’t know why we’re there and that’s an additional barrier when working with patients. I remember very clearly a day on placement in an adult acute setting when we arrived to assess a gentleman’s swallow and we introduced ourselves. His prompt response was: “I don’t have a lisp!”
What’s your work environment and culture like?
Working in an adult setting, my work is often quite fast paced. This isn’t necessarily typical. Colleagues of mine working with adults with learning disabilities might take a lot longer to complete their assessments than I might. I work as part of a large interdisciplinary team, which is great as it means you can share information. Not all speech and language therapists have access to this team environment all the time and I’m grateful to have it. However, no SLT ever truly works alone. We’re the specialists in communication, and no one in the world doesn’t depend on communication. Someone somewhere will always need to hear what we have to say!
What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?
Hm, truth be told, not as many as I should have done, looking back. However, thinking about the things I’ve done since that have contributed, any opportunity to get involved in schools or with the vulnerable groups with whom speech and language therapists work are great opportunities to build up skills and knowledge. I completed a CELTA course before my final year of university started and this was definitely formative in terms of developing my confidence in communicating with people who struggle to make themselves understood.
I also took part in a study abroad programme. This experience gave me a lot of confidence for trying new things and for handling things on my own and I would recommend it to anyone who can.
What would you like to do next with your career?
I’m still very much at the start of my career, so probably the next steps for me is getting my competencies and progressing to the point where I’m more independent and have developed my specialist skills and knowledge. However, I will definitely be pursuing postgraduate training in dysphagia as soon as possible and taking part in as many COD opportunities as possible.
What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?
These are uncertain times. A lot of comfortable jobs that were around in 2008 didn’t exist in 2009. Even the first job I did in 2009 is looking less certain in 2020, what with Brexit and Coronavirus. As someone who’s spent a long time being self employed (without ever planning to) I’m playing catch up now.in a number of respects.
Don’t be afraid to change direction, even if it means starting at the bottom, as it will pay off eventually. I know a number of people who laboured for a number of years to get into industries that they had prepared for before realising that there were other ways to be happy and other ways to get job satisfaction. And don’t ever think your degree was useless. Every degree has something that carries over into something else. And the knowledge you gained and the experience you had will sustain you for a lifetime.
What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?
Healthcare, self-employment, changing careers, studying something brand new, graduating into a recession, studying with children...is a list okay? It could be quite a long one! Happy to answer questions on speech and language therapy in general, too.
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