continuing education

◆ Looking back and moving forward.

2015 started out as a year of uncertainty for me: I was leaving my job of over three years to venture out into the unknown. I was stressed out, exhausted, and not sure how to proceed. I had tied much of my professional identity to being an acute care SLP, and the thought of changing was incredibly daunting. Would I be able to jump into the world of rehab and know what to do? Would I like it? Would I be able to make ends meet?

In the midst of this large professional shift, my family was having its own challenges. My mom was in the middle of chemo and radiation treatment for cancer, and making sure I was present for my parents was very important to me.

This blue bear served as a frequent reference point for me when trying to navigate the Denver convention center at #ASHA15.

This blue bear served as a frequent reference point for me when trying to navigate the Denver convention center at #ASHA15.

When I first wrote about this change I had no idea what all these changes would look like. As these things so often seem to go, nothing goes according to plan. Because the credentialing process for insurance takes a very long time, and because I was the very first SLP at the private practice, I had to find other work while waiting to be approved to provide services in that setting.

To sustain myself in the meantime, I picked up a PRN position in home health. This was (and is) a fascinating and challenging position, and was a wonderful way to rebuild my therapy skills. I also picked up freelance interpreting work. I was a sign language interpreter before becoming an SLP, and have long kept up a small handful of hours on the side. Picking up more hours was a helpful change of pace, and afforded me a nice variety to my work.

With all that said, here's some things I've learned in 2015 that I believe will make 2016 an even more exciting year.

The Denver convention center was an easy walk from the hotels and the sunny weather made for a very pleasant convention experience. 

The Denver convention center was an easy walk from the hotels and the sunny weather made for a very pleasant convention experience. 

Trust those instincts.

From figuring out how to proceed in therapy, to knowing what kind of work to accept, pay attention to that little voice especially if it expresses nervousness. In the process of my hiring for both the home health and the outpatient positions, I noticed a fair amount of disorganization that left me nervous, so I accepted only PRN positions to afford me more flexibility in that environment. As a result, I've been able to be flexible with my hours and make sure that my caseload is manageable.

Learn new things.

It's no secret that I enjoy conferences. They are in part a social experience for me, since it's a chance to see colleagues from around the country (and world). Meeting new colleagues is equally important. The interaction with my fellow SLPs and audiologists allows as much opportunity to learn as the workshops themselves.

This year, I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended some sessions in areas which I don't currently treat. For example, I attended a session about transgender voice therapy, and it turned out to be one of my favorite sessions of the entire convention. When thinking about why this was, I realized that it was because I got to think about therapy in a different way for a change. Also, one of the topics emphasized in the talk was principles of motor learning, which is a hot topic in the areas of dysphagia and motor speech. Hearing it discussed in new ways, by SLPs who talk about their work differently than I do, was a fantastic way to really start to get a better grasp of the concept and understand why it is so vital to therapy. On top of that, it helped me learn about an area I have interest in, but not experience or training. It may help open new doors in the future, and in the meantime has already helped make me a better clinician.

The main entryway in the Denver convention center. 

The main entryway in the Denver convention center. 

Do the right thing.

Ethical challenges come in all shapes and sizes. It may be a company that accepts more patients than they have staff to accommodate. It may be an employer with unethical billing practices. It may be pressure to see more patients than you are able to handle.

In the past year, all of these situations have presented themselves to me, in varying degrees of seriousness. It proved to be to my advantage to accept work only on a PRN basis, as it has afforded me more control over my time and my work. I do not accept new patients unless I know I can commit to providing their treatment consistently. Having become all too familiar with burnout, I recognize and honor my limits, and always remind myself that if I don't take care of myself, I'll be a less present, and therefore less effective, clinician for my patients.

I love windows that move up tall buildings, and appreciated all the light they brought to the convention.

I love windows that move up tall buildings, and appreciated all the light they brought to the convention.

Move forward.

For me, 2015 was a chance to reboot. Though I wasn't looking for it at first, change found me and reminded me I needed it. Challenges presented themselves and I found strength I didn't know I had. I re-invented myself in ways I hadn't imagined I could, and in the process of learning about myself, I found myself growing both personally and professionally. My patients were a big part of that growth, and have helped me to identify new goals for myself.I never used to set goals for myself. In my last job, we had an annual performance review, and I always had a hard time thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in the next year. "I just want to do my work and do well at it," I used to say. This year, I find myself having tangible goals I want to accomplish. Among these, I want to more readily identify ways to target and help my patients meet their goals. I want to start a business and learn to establish contract relationships so I can be more flexible and mobile with my services. In this vein, I want to write about what I learn, both so that I can hold myself accountable with my goals, have a way to look back on what I've learned, and also that others may learn from my experience (both the good and the bad).

Cheers to 2016. Let's make this year an awesome one.

★ ASHA Health Care & Business Institute

Greetings from Phoenix, Arizona! I’m attending ASHA’s Health Care & Business Institute, which is a three-day conference covering a variety of clinical and, as the name suggests, business topics. My last convention was in Chicago in 2013 for the large annual ASHA Convention.

I did things differently for this convention than I have for my past conventions:

  1. I took the entire day off to allow for travel. I used to work most of the day and then travel, which always left me tired right out of the gate. Having the whole day off meant I could fly in sooner, and then had time to wander and explore the area a bit before going to check in for the conference.
  2. Being here early also meant I was able to be present for the opening reception. It was lightly attended (I was also there early), but already I’ve had the chance to meet new people and have thoughtful and interesting conversations.
  3. I packed much lighter. This was somewhat easier given both that it’s summer and that it’s Phoenix, but I was careful to pack only what I would need.
  4. While I brought my laptop, I don’t plan on using it to take notes during sessions. I may tweet information from time to time from my phone, but having recently been reading and listening to stories about the big difference between writing notes vs typing them (namely that we tend to transcribe when typing rather than actually processing what we’re hearing in order to write meaningful notes), I decided to bring along a notebook and pen and see if I can tell a difference.

The biggest difference between the ASHA Convention and this one so far is both size and scope. It’s definitely a more intimate setting, and there are far fewer sessions from which to select. However, I appreciate the focus and the various learning “tracks” (there are five themes and one session per theme for each time slot) for helping me decide what I want to learn about. As I’ve been learning to navigate the worlds of home health and outpatient care, there are many things I’m eager to learn.

If you’re interested in following any tweets I might be writing, I’ll be writing them @ProjectSLP and using the hashtag #HCBI15. And if you were curious, I brought my camera along so I could enjoy my hobby while also in an exciting and educational frame of mind. Above are pictured some shots of the Phoenix Convention Center.

★ On Improving the ASHA CE Registry

Last night I wrote a tweet regarding the ASHA Continuing Education Registry that seemed to resonate a lot with other folks across Twitter. ASHA had linked to an Instagram photo that encouraged members to join the CE Registry, and I replied that while I liked it, I felt it should already be included in the cost of annual dues (rather than the additional $25/year it currently costs each member).

I have paid the annual fee for the continuing education registry ever since earning my CCCs. I find it convenient and helpful, as it puts all my continuing education in one place. I could easily do so myself with a simple table or spreadsheet on my computer, but having it as part of my ASHA profile is helpful because when ASHA wants to verify my CEUs, it’s a snap to do so because they’re already in their own system. I don’t have to pull out my file, or scans, or any other information to verify that I earned my CEUs. Also, when my state organization wants to audit my CEUs, it’s simple to log in to ASHA, print out my transcript, and send it along.

I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I have been able to afford the annual $25 fee for the past few years. I have no idea if that will always be the case, and for many folks, the additional fee on top of the annual membership fee is just not feasible for them. This is especially true when additional costs for continuing education itself, as well as state licensure, are considered.

In my concurrent career as a certified sign language interpreter, the certifying body has a means to track CEUs as part of the annual cost of membership. It’s easy to see why: having all members be able to track CEUs as part of the online dashboard is helpful for us to keep track of continuing education. On the flip side, it’s also easier for the organization itself to keep track of our its members CEUs. It saves them time and resources and simplifies the bookkeeping on their end. It’s a win-win, so it’s worth it to incorporate it into the cost of membership.

A bonus to including CE registry cost into annual membership would be that more members may consider joining a Special Interest Group rather than trying to decide between the two (SIG membership is $35 per year, but you get my drift; costs for SIGs could benefit from a pricing structure change, too, but that’s another discussion for another day). Fundamentally, I think all members would benefit from having access to the CE registry as a part of the basic cost of membership, and ASHA and the professions at large would benefit from increased SIG membership and the resources and professional discussion that can be gained from them.