“Feeling Fulfilled as a Therapist”: Starting the CFY in Skilled Nursing

seattle_new_beginningsby Sara Savaglio & Heather Jeng

A warm welcome to our new co-blogger, Sara S.! Our first non-Case Western alum to join SLPs in the SNF, Sara is celebrating some major SLP career milestones this year. She graduated from the University of Washington this summer, and is starting her Clinical Fellowship Year in skilled nursing/long-term care near Olympia, WA. (Check out the rest of her bio.) We chatted with her about why she chose speech-language pathology as a career, and what drew her to the SNF setting.

How did you get into speech-language pathology?

Sort of on accident!  I considered pursuing speech pathology when I was in high school but that desire waned as I started community college, when I considered becoming almost everything else in the medical field.  As the time to transfer to a university drew nearer, I thought to myself “okay, time to get serious about a profession”.  Right at that time, I discovered that my campus was starting an SLPA program.  I figured it was fate, took some introductory classes, and here I am today with my Master’s!

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 1st-year master’s student self?

I would tell myself two things: 1.  You WILL survive.  2.  Be confident in your skill set, and remember why you chose to pursue this career.

Any general advice for #SLP2B?

Don’t worry about knowing everything right away – worry about knowing where to find the information that you need, and trust the skills and knowledge that you will gain in school.  Also: find, borrow, copy, create, etc. as many materials as you can while you are in school and have almost unlimited access to loads of resources.  Trust me, it’ll be a lifesaver.

Why did you opt for a SNF position for your CFY?

I have always been on Team Adult when it comes to speech pathology.  During graduate school, I completed two clinical rotations in SNFs, and I loved it.  I enjoyed the pace (most of the time), the caseload, and the patients I worked with.  In this setting I felt like I could really make a difference to my patients and their family, as well as feeling fulfilled as a therapist.  I also love being able to co-treat with other disciplines and having the ability to work with your patient as a whole instead of focusing only on what you are asking from them.

What was your experience interviewing for SNF positions like?

Fast!  I did quite a bit of background research on rehab companies and found a few that I felt would be a good fit.  I applied to several, but was only asked to interview with one.  During my initial phone interview, we discussed my clinical experiences and interests, and they asked me to come to the facility for a site visit the following week.  I took a tour of the facility, fielded some questions about my clinical experiences from the DoR, and was offered the job that day.

What are your main clinical interests and why? 

At this point, I am enjoying cognitive therapy and dysphagia therapy (which is probably why I have stayed so close to SNFs).  They can be such tricky little puzzles to figure out, but so rewarding when you do and can see the difference it makes to your patients.

Aside from rocking your CFY (obviously!), what early professional goals do you have for yourself?

My first goal is to foster my clinical skills and confidence and develop who I am as an independent therapist.  I would also love to get as many skills, relevant certifications, and experiences as I can related to dysphagia evaluation and treatment.  There are so many new ideas coming to light in the dysphagia world, and I want to make sure that I stay up-to-date on what is most effective for my patients because this can be such a delicate area.  I would also love the opportunity to work with trach and vent patients, but that will likely be further into my career.

What are your non-SLP hobbies & interests?

I have lots of little interests and two major interests.  The little interests are the usual things, visiting my friends and family, reading, being outdoors.  My first major interest is ballet.  Ballet (and dance) was my first passion in life and I hope to get back to it someday.  There really isn’t any feeling in the world that quite describes what it’s like to perform on stage (or the pain of
getting blisters from new pointe shoes).  And my second major interest is TV – I have a long list of guilty (or not so guilty) pleasures that I indulge in when I can.

For more resources related to the Clinical Fellowship, check out Heather’s CFY & Beyond page.

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