grad school

★ In Retrospect

Every once in a while, I find myself writing in new places. Yesterday was one such day. I wrote my first ever article for ASHAsphere, the official ASHA blog. I wrote a piece I called A Handful of Post-Graduate Retrospection. It was a lot of fun.

One of the hardest things about any new endeavor is getting started. Everyone has to start somewhere, and much as we would prefer to think otherwise, the best place to start is at the beginning. Much as I don’t want to admit it, I hated starting at the beginning. But I did it (and I’m glad I did it), and here’s a handful of things I’ve learned so far.

I would be honored if you go read it. If you already have, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

For new readers, welcome! Though I rarely have comments open on this site, I still welcome feedback and love to interact with you all. My favorite way to interact is on Twitter. Shoot me an "@ reply" and I always aim to respond. I also welcome email correspondence. If you would like to receive the articles I post here via email, you can subscribe from the sidebar to the right. If would like to subscribe via a feed reader, you can click the link above that says "RSS" or just click the link right here.

★ Writing About Writing

Back in graduate school, I used to think I did a lot of writing. Writing notes for class, working on short essays and term papers here and there, writing lesson plans for clinic (and then, of course, rewriting them) and then writing SOAP notes after sessions. I remember hearing at some point that I should get used to all the paperwork, because it would become a big part of my life, but like any good graduate student, I laughed it off and instead imagined a glamorous, paperwork-free career ahead of me. It's now pushing two years since I graduated with my Master's degree, and I've discovered that writing is not only a big part of what I do, it's a really huge part. Everything we do, it seems, requires documention.

Can this be overwhelming? Absolutely. Is it necessary for us to do all this writing? I've come to believe that, yes, it is vital to what we do. I also believe that good writing applies to any setting we find ourselves.

So who benefits from all this writing?

  • We do.

    As an acute care SLP, my caseload varies significantly from day to day. I do a lot of assessments, and sometimes only work with patients one or two times before they get discharged. Other times, I work with a patient one day, then won't be able to see that same patient for another day or two. Having good notes about each encounter re-orients me to each patient, and serves to assist a memory that is greatly overwhelmed with memories of sessions and evaluations.

    My fellow SLPs who work in outpatient and skilled settings can use notes to track session objectives and activities, and maintain progress. The same goes for private practice and educational clinicians.

  • Our patients/clients do.

    They may never read them, but should services need to be transferred to another clinician or location for any reason, good documentation can help that new clinician pick up therapy where they left off. It's a win for both the client and clinician.

  • Other professionals.

    In my case, I work regularly with doctors, and they rely on my notes for monitoring patient status and discharge planning.

The list goes on.

Over the last few months, I grew curious about just how much I actually write on a daily basis. I've taken to writing my notes in Microsoft Word (not my first choice for word processing software, but the only one available on my work PC, unfortunately), and have taken note at the end of each day of the total word count.

On an average day in February, I wrote somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000 words. In March, I noticed that that number had risen to closer to 1,500 words. Doing some rough calculations, that breaks down as follows.

  • Words per day: 1,500
  • Words per week: 7,500
  • Words per month: 30,000

This means that, in the space of less than two months, I have written enough words to fit a novel that satisfies the constraints of National Novel Writing Month.

All this writing is tiring, certainly, and sometimes when I try to write a blog post here, I find I'm worn out and unable to do so. It's the nature of the beast, however as I have gotten more accustomed to New Job, I have found that writing is slowly getting easier.

I have embraced clinical writing, and with time have noticed that it steadily improves along with my clinical skills.

This is a good thing, and gives me hope, because there is much still that I want to do. I just have to remember to be patient and let things happen in good time.

★ I need to find a way to organize my organizational structure.

Textbooks. Binders. Homework. Notes. Comps binders. Articles. More textbooks. More binders. More notes. Term papers. As a speech person, I tend to be a tad OCD about organizing myself. I have binders for days, with neatly divided sections denoting class notes, homework, term papers, and even a few odd exams here and there. I also have every textbook I have ever purchased for my speech degrees.

After looking over some class notes from my undergrad days, it dawned on me that they're practically foreign to me now. I read the words and see how hard I worked to grasp all this new information. But the me of today and the me that started studying to get into this field nearly nine years ago are two very different people.

Part of me wants to break free of the old, and embrace the new. Start fresh. Embrace the new me, keep my books for references, and renew things from the vantage that every new day of work brings to me.

While the other part of me wants to savor that old process of learning. Comb through it like an anthropologist looking for clues about how a fresh mind can become a specialized, thinking machine.

Decisions, decisions.