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Career Story: Speech-Language Pathologist And Audiologist

Speech-Language Pathologist And Audiologist

Job Title: Speech-Language Pathologist And Audiologist

Type of Company: I work for a long term accute care hospital working with mainly with respiratory patients. I also work in a large pediatric hospital in the otolaryngology clinic.

Education: Master of Science in Audiology and Speech-language Pathology

Previous Experience: I was a speech assistant in a public school then I went to grad school to pursue speech-lang pathology and audiology.

Job Tasks: For my speech-language pathology job, I work with patients on their communication and swallowing in a long term acute care hospital. These patients have a variety of diagnosis from strokes, traumatic brain injuries, respiratory diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or emphysema, dementia and neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

Because of these above diagnoses, these patients either are not able to communicate and/or swallow. Many of them are not eating by mouth and are on feeding tubes. If a patient is on a ventilator (breathing machine) or has a tracheotomy, they are not able to speak. For a stroke, brain injury or neurological disease, patients often can't speak, their speaking does not make sense, or they can't understand what people are saying to them. This is because the message from the brain is not able to reach the mouth to speak correctly or their brain cannot process what someone is saying to them. It is up to the speech-language pathologist to evaluate their expressive language, receptive language, reading comprehension, writing ability, cognitive status (short term memory, orientation, such as are they aware of time and place, organization, safety awareness, planning, sequencing of tasks) as well as their swallowing status. Once these patients are evaluated, they are then treated for whatever impairments they are having. It is very rewarding to watch a patient go from not speaking and eating to leaving the hopsital to go home on a regular diet and able to communicate.

For my audiology job, I work at a large children's hospital performing diagnostic hearing tests on children ranging in age from 0-21. I do newborn hearing screenings in the neonatal intensive care unit, caridac unit and surgical unit. I perform auditory brainstem response tests on little babies (this is a test where we hook the babies to electrodes and test their hearing while they are asleep; we do this because ltitle babies are not able to let us know if they can hear things). I do these kind of tests in the operating room, too. I also do the typical kind of hearing tests where older kids (age 4-5 and older) are able to raise their hand when they hear the sounds. For kids that are 6 months to 4 years, we have to adapt that test. For the 6 month to 2-3 year olds, we look at their head turns to sounds, for 3-4 year olds, we have them put a block or toy into a bucket when they hear the sound. We often have to tell families that their newborn is deaf or has some for of hearing loss. We recommend hearing aids for these kids. Many of the kids we see have a lot of medical complications or developmental disabilities. We also test all of the kids who have cancer because their chemotherapy can damage their hearing. It is a very emotionally draining job but extremely rewarding.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my two jobs are seeing patients get better and knowing that you have contributed to this and watching families with children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing get over their grief and begin to implement my recommendations. They are then able to see that their children will be OK and will lead normal lives.

The worst part of my jobs are seeing patients (especially children) who are so medically compromised. I see patients with horrible diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, or who got into terrible accidents as well as small babies and children with genetic syndromes and cancer.

Job Tips:
1. Both of these jobs require a person who is compassionate, who believes that people can change, and is able to work well with doctors, nurses, rehab staff, families, case workers, teachers etc.

2. Don't worry if you aren't sure exactly what kind of population you want to work with (children or adults, people with special needs, etc.). You will figure out most of that in grad school and the fields have so many possibilities that you can always work in a different area if you are not totally happy. For example, a speech-language pathologist can work in a school, a hospital, an outpatient clinic or have their own private practice.

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