ACEN student scholarship

Speech pathology placement experience at Naturaliste Community Health

2017 ACEN Student Scholarship Work Integrated Learning: Reflection

My recent speech pathology placement experience at Naturaliste Community health has been an exponential learning curve for me. Not only did the placement provide practical experience related to my course of study, but it also taught me to think more holistically about the clients I am seeing. Within a regional or rural area, the population does not have the same access to resources that the metropolitan area has. I was taught to think about how I can use the resources around me more effectively to provide a service that was effective and sustainable. I was also challenged by the limitations of the service I can provide based on my knowledge and training when considering the range of needs expressed by the regional population. This grew a desire within me to expand my skills beyond their current scope, to seek additional professional development and expertise in order to address a broader scope of impairments or difficulties that can impact speech, language, communication and swallowing.

For example, the speech pathologists at Naturaliste community health are all trained to screen ear health. This is an important factor that can impact the development of children’s speech and language skills, and children are often referred for delayed speech development as a result of recurrent ear infections and/or hearing loss. Audiologists are scarce in the south-west region, and people are often required to travel great distances to have their hearing tested or treated. Being able to screen a child’s ear health is extremely informative for planning whether or not further audiology is necessary, or to determine whether their hearing really is having an impact on their speech. It informs the treatment decisions and provides feedback to parents directly, rather than waiting for specialist appointments or booking to see a doctor. This has made me pursue further training in this area.

My work integrated learning placement also taught me about how theory doesn’t always work perfectly, and your session or treatment will not always go as planned or in the ideal manner you might hope for. This taught me flexibility in my treatment plans, and gave me skills to consider how I can tailor assessment and treatment goals specifically to the client by considering their everyday environment and the factors that might be influencing them.

This placement taught me how to work collaboratively with other team members of the same or different professions to provide an effective service. I also learned how to liaise and plan treatment goals with parents and school teachers to provide effective, personalised therapy provision for clients. It gave me a broader understanding of all the people who have a role in the client’s life and how they can support them.

I learned how to manage my caseload independently.  As noted earlier, resources are limited in regional areas and that includes work professionals! All the clinicians have a large caseload and lots of clients. But this also included all the paperwork and planning that goes along with seeing each client. I learned how to prioritise, plan my time effectively, and most of all, how to say no to things that I thought would be too much for me. Naturally, I am someone who always wants to say yes, but I have learned that prioritising in order to provide the best service possible is more effective than stretching yourself too thin.

This was an amazing experience, and I will take so many of these skills I’ve learned with me throughout my career. I’m forever grateful for ACEN’s support and encouragement to pursue this work integrated learning experience. It was such a blast! Thank you.

4th year speech pathology student, Curtin University