Clinical externship/practicum is the final step on the path to becoming a licensed speech- language pathologist (SLP). All of the stress from applying to graduate school and working hard in all of your classes has finally paid off, and now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned in the real world. Starting the last step may be intimidating and daunting, but it is a great opportunity to showcase your work ethic, job skills, and knowledge about the field. I can sum up my 11 weeks at PlayWorks Therapy into five takeaway points:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Starting your first clinical externship/practicum can be nerve-wracking. One key factor I constantly reminded myself of was that everyone goes through this process. At one point, my supervisor was also a student and her supervisor before her. Your externship is a judgement-free zone, a place where you can learn and grow as a clinician. The best way to grow is to ask questions. My supervisor and I established an open communication relationship from day one. Coordinate your communication style with your supervisor and don’t be afraid to ask them why they implemented a specific approach or for advice regarding a specific client.
2. Be flexible!
If my 11 weeks with PlayWorks Therapy has taught me anything, it is definitely the importance of flexibility. Not only is flexibility extremely important when interacting with families, it is also a great quality to have as a clinician. Be flexible when scheduling ongoing sessions, as well as in the sessions when things do not go as planned. Being flexible will help in strengthening your ability to modify on the spot, which is another great skill to have as a clinician.
3. Begin each day with a grateful heart.
In all the excitement and commotion of applying your skills in a “real-world” setting, we sometimes lose track of the incredible opportunity we are given. Not many professions get to “test drive” each setting before committing to a specific one. The site, as well as your supervisor, constantly go out of their way to accommodate you and provide numerous learning opportunities to make your externship as beneficial as possible. They are trusting you with their caseload and their families that they have built rapport with. Go out of your way to be appreciative! A small thank you goes a long way.
4. Your supervisor is your best resource!
I was fortunate enough to be placed with a supervisor that I had a lot in common with. From day one, we had a great relationship with constant open communication. I highly advise utilizing your supervisor not only for questions pertaining to your current caseload (who knows your caseload better than they do), but get to know them, their past experiences, and their journey as an SLP too!
5. Observe as much as possible.
Some of my favorite experiences throughout the externship were the multiple observation opportunities presented to me. Being able to observe not only my supervisor, but other SLPs as well, introduced me to many clinical styles within my discipline. I was able to use those experiences as great learning opportunities and tweaked the multiple approaches I observed to help develop my own clinical style. I was also presented with the opportunity to observe other disciplines, which I would highly recommend taking advantage of if possible. As part of a multidisciplinary team, understanding the child’s goals with other disciplines and seeing how they work in conjunction with your discipline’s goals can be beneficial for the child’s overall progress and increase carryover.
I am so grateful for my incredible 11 weeks at PlayWorks Therapy. Even though I have a lot of room to grow as a clinician, the relationships I’ve made and skills I’ve learned are helping to shape me into the clinician I want to be. The most important takeaway of all, is that open communication in a respectful and honest way will help any clinical externship/practicum run smoothly.
Ada Samutthai, MS