★ And now for something completely different.

It’s been over one year since I last wrote here. In that time, I have experienced joy, sadness, exhiliration, exhaustion, and more, some in greater amounts than others. As seems to be common among medical SLPs, I have ended up on the wrong side of burnout. I’ve been working in acute care for going on five years, and it’s finally worn me out.

In this process, I’ve begun exploring new areas and trying new things. After years of talking about it, I’ve finally worked up the courage and the confidence to start developing my own niche. I’ve long wanted to work with adults with hearing loss, in many areas of their communication and swallowing needs, but I wanted first to have the experience working in my native language before doing so in my second language.

In order to pursue this new goal, I have left the hospital I’ve called home for the past three years and am in the process of getting set up at an outpatient clinic. The outpatient world is vastly different from inpatient, and though the paperwork and billing are daunting, I am very excited to be making this change. It’s taken a long time to get here, and I aim to do it right.

The hardest part of such a big change is figuring out where to start. Starting fresh is both exciting and terrifying; it’s amazing how comfortable you can get in one situation, and how hard it is, while in it, to imagine being anywhere else. As I think about how challenging this change is for me, I am reminded of many of my patients, who had no say in the sudden and dramatic changes which confronted them. Their resilience and determination inspire me. I have many ideas, and have slowly been collecting my thoughts, organizing them, and discussing them with colleagues.

Writing has long been something that brings enjoyment, and this website has always been a nice side project to work on. For the past year, I have been too exhausted to put any effort into side projects, and I have even found little energy for continuing education, which I value greatly. The questions have been there, but the energy to pursue them has not. Coming to this realization was helpful in accepting that the time for change is now.

So much is uncertain right now, though in time I know I will gain renewed confidence and vigor. For now, I will be working diligently to meet new goals which have me excited about the work I do. I will find new questions to ask, new things I want to learn, new challenges to overcome.

The unfamiliarity of my new world has left me with a drive I thought was lost. And yet, I still impatiently wait for things to be familiar once again.

★ #ASHA12: The Aftermath

I had planned on writing some follow-up posts upon my arrival back home from Atlanta following the amazing experience that was the ASHA Convention (or, as it is known on twitter, #ASHA12).

Those plans were interrupted in part by a busy day following my arrival that consisted entirely of chores around the house and errands around town, and then hampered further when, sometime around 4:00am Monday morning, I awoke with a start and was greeted with the realization that I was violently ill.

I spent a large chunk of my day alternately marveling at the relativity of time and wondering just how long I might actually remain alive. I could barely drink water, though I tried to force myself to drink it both in cold and hot fashion (hot with honey and lemon). When I tried to eat a cracker mid-day, my body just cackled at me and informed me, roughly ten minutes later, that that was a very bad idea. The whole day yesterday, I managed to tolerate half a cup of chicken soup, some water, and some 7UP.

I was eventually able to find sleep, and despite periodic moments when I would wake up, I slept for a grand total of over 15 hours. I took this to mean my body was dying for rest, and heeded the call and took a second sick day.

Fortunately, I am now very much on the mend. As such, I'm thinking more clearly now, and have been able to put these events into some sort of perspective.

Since I work in acute care, I deal with very sick patients. I would venture to say that at my patients are all a great deal sicker than I have been for the past two days. Yesterday, when my bug was at its absolute worst, I found I couldn't focus on much other than just how awful I felt. I wanted to sleep, I wanted to breathe, I wanted for the horrible feelings to just hurry up and pass.

The lesson I'm taking away here is to, above all, maintain empathy for all of my patients, who are quite often at their absolute worst. It also reminds me just how much our cognition can be impacted by any type of illness, and that even the physical act of speaking can be difficult when one is that sick.

These are all things I like to think I keep in mind all the time, but being reminded of the reality of what it feels like is jarring. Here's to keeping these reminders few and far between, and maintaining high quality patient care always.