Monday, September 11, 2006

Why did you become a speech pathologist?

I didn't set out to become an SLP. Growing up, I wanted to be, variously, a:
  • teacher ('til I realized how difficult keeping 20 to 30 kids in line would be);
  • writer (until I realized that length alone did not ensure a quality work of literature, and that my fiction-writing abilities left a whole lot to be desired);
  • veterinarian (until I realized that if I had patients, I would want them to be able to talk to me... the first signs of an SLP bent??);
  • astronaut (until the Challenger explosion);
  • archaeologist (until I realized that male archaeologists do NOT all look like Harrison Ford, and that digging stuff up, while rather romantic-sounding, was only the very beginning of a lot of work interpreting what the dug-up stuff meant);
  • cryptographer (until I realized how much math that requires, and that it wouldn't be nearly as exciting as it sounded); and, finally, a
  • doctor (until I realized how old I would be once I finished med school and residency).

When I started college, I decided to double major in linguistics and an (unrelated) liberal-arts major. I wanted to get a Ph.D. in an esoteric linguistics-related discipline and spend the rest of my working days in an ivory tower of academia, teaching and publishing important-sounding scholarly papers and books. Unfortunately, it eventually dawned on me that there was probably not much of a demand for Ph.D.'s with such an esoteric specialization, and that I would have to move to wherever I was lucky enough to get a job offer, even if it was the last place I wanted to live. I decided I wanted more flexibility. And practicality. A profession in which I could find a job fairly easily, wherever I decided to move. Something I could pick up and put down if/when I decided to have kids. Something linguistics-related.

I started looking at graduate programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders. There weren't a whole lot of other linguistics-related options that met my requirements (except for computational linguistics, which was out of the question since my computer science training/experience was exactly zilch). I found a program that was willing to give me some prerequisite credits for some of my linguistics classes, and allowed me to start taking the undergraduate prerequisite CSD classes simultaneously with some of the graduate level courses. So I signed up.

Initially I wanted to work with kids. Then, after some less-than-stellar experiences in my pediatric practica, I had my final externship in an acute-care hospital. I loved it. I loved reading medical charts, assessing acutely ill patients, doing videofluoroscopic swallowing studies (moving X-Rays of swallowing). I liked doing a lot of evaluations, with a little bit of therapy (treatment) thrown in. I liked seeing almost all adults. I liked the frequent turnover of the caseload and the fact that each day was unpredictable. I liked the variety of diagnoses. I was also afraid that if I started out working with kids, it would be more difficult to switch to working with adults if I ever wanted a change than vice versa. So when I graduated, I applied (and was accepted!) for a job in an acute-care hospital, working with adult inpatients. I've been there ever since.


Blogger Sarah said...

This all sounds a lot like me! I guess I would add that I wanted the practicality of a degree in CSD while remaining in the ivory tower...
My blog doesn't have much, or anything really, about my SLP experiences on it, but I'll be sure to keep up with yours =] Speech Keen is cute.

I'm working on my Ph.D. now in speech-language pathology (with a neurolinguist)-I'm a linguist at heart (mind?).

5:37 PM  
Blogger Speechy said...

Good for you, going for the Ph.D.! I think it's great to have more linguists in the field -- I think we bring a little different perspective. And about that ivory tower... the longer I stay in my "practical" job, the more appealing it looks! :)

6:45 PM  

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