When I was a young, wide-eyed Clinical Fellow (CF) a million years ago, my mentor was a prehistoric Tyrannosaurus jerk!
Every night I went home with less enthusiasm, feeling like an indentured servant. I questioned whether pursuing a speech pathology job was the right career choice. Things were so bad, I switched placements about eight weeks in.
I found an amazingly supportive environment for the remainder of my Clinical Fellowship Year in speech pathology. Although I was working more at the second placement, I loved it! I was being treated with respect and was given enough freedom to become the therapist I knew I could be.
When I took my first practicing Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) job, I looked forward to the time I’d be able to mentor a CF myself. I wanted to give back by providing the best mentoring experience I could.
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), I have the extreme good fortune to head up our Clinical Fellowship Program. I coordinate training and support for CFs working in several therapeutic specialties, including SLP jobs, in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
It’s one of my favorite duties. None of us at PTS take our CF program lightly!
Over the years, we’ve cultivated a CF culture in which therapists who are entering speech pathology jobs, or jobs in any other discipline, are active, engaged partners in their own learning and professional development—not helpless prey for any pediatric therapy dinosaurs!
Five Keys to Ensuring a Strong Clinical Fellowship Program
Whether they’re spending their Clinical Fellowship Year in a speech pathology job or in another therapy specialty, our CFs benefit from a program that makes a major impact on their professional development.
I’ve found five factors makes the CF year as rich and rewarding as it can be:
1. Establishing Clear Expectations
PTS offers a CF Boot Camp at the start of each school year. We discuss our expectations of CFs, their expectations of us as a company, and their expectations of mentors. When spelling out the roles of CFs and mentors, we cover:
- Supervisory methods
- Support levels
- Conflict resolution strategies
2. Empowering Clinical Fellows’ Ownership
We want to be sure CFs understand they have a say in shaping their Clinical Fellowship Year. We encourage them to take and exercise ownership of it by:
- Tracking their own time and supervision.
- Giving their mentors feedback at the end of segments, not just receiving it.
- Initiating the process of changing whatever aspects need to be changed or delivered differently.
3. Providing Multiple Supports
While we believe CFs must take charge of the experience’s overall trajectory to gain the most from it, we don’t leave them on their own. Whenever they want or need help with specific cases or specialties, they have ongoing access to PTS’ large library of diagnostic tools and other clinical resources. They can also reach out to:
- Their assigned mentor, who directly supervises them, regularly gives them substantive and constructive feedback, and orients them to pediatric SLP practice.
- A Speech Clinical Director and a Clinical Director assigned to the school district, who provide on-site program management and team supervision so advisory support and professional representation are never far away.
- PTS’ wide-reaching network of school-based therapists with in-depth knowledge, extensive experience, and great ideas, and who are always within reach via social media and at regular PTS-sponsored events.
- Skilled and helpful PTS office staff, who can quickly connect CFs to the people and resources they need to succeed in school-based speech pathology jobs.
4. Nurturing Face-to-Face Relationships
At PTS, we focus on face-to-face connections because nothing can replace them. We have ongoing networking and meeting opportunities to help CFs with any issues that arise. Any time they need support, a pep talk, or a check-in, all they have to do is ask!
5. Responding Rapidly to Clinical Fellows’ Questions
When CFs ask questions, they need immediate answers and real-time responses. We make CFs’ requests and questions top priorities. We can even send them a report they need to review before a meeting scheduled at the last minute for the next day.
Don’t End Up Sidelined in Your Speech Pathology Clinical Fellowship Year!
Nothing matches Clinical Fellows’ enthusiasm and excitement. They start their speech pathology jobs, or jobs in other therapy services, with great ideas and great attitudes, eager to apply the latest knowledge. Their terrific energy spills over to the students they work with.
So seeing talented Speech Language Pathologists sidelined by sub-par mentors, as I was in my CF year, is so sad.
After my experience, all those years ago, of feeling like a pebble in the working world’s shoe, I vowed to make every CF I work with feel valued and appreciated. I often think, “What a shame for my first mentor! She missed all the greatness of mentoring and developing CFs.”
Overseeing the CF program is extremely rewarding. This program is about more than just having someone review your paperwork. It’s about feeling connected to a bigger purpose. Knowing we’re sending qualified CFs on their way to earning their Certificate of Clinical Competence is very satisfying.
To explore the possibility of doing your Clinical Fellowship as part of the PTS team, or to find out about currently open school-based SLP jobs near you, click here to contact us.