I am 2 weeks into my summer clinical practicum at a SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility) and I am loving it, but I am WAY out of my comfort zone. I have never worked in a setting like this. It is EXTREMELY different from the school setting and quite a challenge for me, but I’m always up for an adventure. In my SNF we work with a lot of residents who have goals for dysphagia and cognitive skills. Many of the residents I am working with have dementia, some are recovering from strokes, and a few have a variety of other medical diagnoses that have somehow affected their cognition/swallowing. I have enjoyed getting to know these residents and I really do enjoy our time together.
What has been a challenge for me this summer is gaining confidence in this setting. In the school setting, I was more comfortable because I had been a teacher and because I felt like I knew what I was doing (even though I know I still have a lot to learn). In the medical setting, I find myself struggling to pull the knowledge I gained in my courses into each situation. Swallowing is such a complicated area to treat because it’s not the same for everyone. Even when two patients have the same dysfuntion in their swallow, the treatment used may be entirely different depending on their situation. I am learning to apply the knowledge I gained in class to the real world.
Another challenge I have faced is just learning the lingo. There are so many abbreviations used in the medical setting, it’s almost like learning another language! I carry around a medical abbreviations list I got from the ASHA website (click here for link), but sometimes it’s just faster to ask someone about a specific abbreviation, rather than look it up. In addition to the vast amount of abbreviations, I’m also learning to write more medically professional sounding session notes. Using the appropriate medical terms (i.e. “masticate” instead of “chew”) is something I am working on. I know the terms, it’s just hard for me to remember to use them!
Each day I gain a little more confidence, but it really fluctuates depending on the situation. The one thing that remains constant is my excitement. I am learning so much, and I really enjoy seeing this side of the field. One of the things I love most about the field of speech-language pathology is the variety of settings we can work in. Each setting (school, hospital, SNF, private clinics, home health, etc.) is so different and has its own challenges and rewards. I love that I am experiencing a new setting in my SNF this summer, and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.