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How to Balance Class and Clinic: Tips & Tricks for First-Year Graduate Students

Sarah Walker, NJSHA Student Representative

As incoming speech-language pathology (SLP) and audiology graduate students, we are overcome with a feeling of excitement to begin this new chapter in our lives. We are eager to learn new information, practice cutting-edge techniques and begin to make a difference in the world of clinical practice. This new chapter in our lives comes with new responsibilities associated with academic courses and clinical practica. There will be exams, research papers, group projects, meetings, observations, seminars and more. These new responsibilities may seem overwhelming, but with a few tips and tricks from your fellow second-year graduate students, you will master your first year of classes and clinic as well as your degree!

First and most certainly foremost, buy a planner! Your planner will be absolutely essential to your success in staying organized and on top of your responsibilities, with both school and clinic. Because you will rely so heavily on your planner, I recommend shopping around for one that fits your needs perfectly. My favorite planner is the 8.5 by 11-inch Day Designer®, manufactured by BlueSky™. It has a to-do check list on every day, boxes for notes, goal-setting pages and inspirational quotes to keep you focused on the prize. I also love Knock Knock® notepads. They help prioritize your assignments and things to do in a fun way! They come in a variety of colors and subjects, like grocery and packing lists, which can help you stay organized in your life outside of school and clinic as well.

In addition to your assignments, it is also important to keep your paperwork and computer documents organized. Before you know it, you will have syllabi, schedules and other documents for each course of your academic program. These documents can get confusing if they’re saved haphazardly on your computer. An easy solution to keep your documents organized on your computer is to create a separate folder for each academic class and another for clinic. Clearly labeled folders will alleviate confusion when submitting assignments, sending emails with attachments and quickly opening notes from the previous lecture. This system will also ensure that your confidential documents from clinic are in a different location than reference documents that were completed in class. It is a good idea to password protect documents containing confidential information that may violate HIPAA regulations.

The next thing is something we never have enough of and always want more of, TIME! It is imperative that you set aside time throughout your week to complete everything written in your planner. It may be helpful to designate certain times of the day or days of the week to complete work. Students have reported that completing notes from clinic sessions immediately after providing therapy was the ideal time because the session is clear in their memory. They have also suggested that Sunday afternoons or nights were best to complete clinic preparation in order to plan their weeks accordingly; whereas week nights and time between classes were saved for academic work. In addition, your clinic setting and caseload will determine how much downtime you have during your therapy days. If you have ample down-time between sessions or prep time, this is a great opportunity to complete clinic paperwork and lesson plans with the materials on hand. However, it is important that you discuss this with your clinic supervisor to make sure it is acceptable within your schedule.

Creating lesson plans, taking data and gathering materials for clinic are essential activities in providing the most optimal therapy for your clients. Fortunately, with evolving technology, there are ample online resources to make preparing for clinic easy and convenient. The most important quick link on your computer browser will be the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) website. ASHA is the national association for speech-language pathologists and audiologists, and therefore is a valid and reliable source to retrieve information. Google and Pinterest are also excellent websites to search for anything you could possibly need for clinic but be cautious of the source of the information. Additionally, there are many websites that supply speechlanguage pathology documents for both the clinician and client, a few examples are Teachers Pay Teachers, Teach Speech 365, TheraSimplicity and Speech Room News. Finally, your university’s library database will be a vital tool when conducting research and finding articles to support your evidence-based practice. These websites will help you obtain materials and your clinical expertise will aid in altering them to suit your clients’ needs.

In addition to physical ways of staying organized and gathering materials, asking questions and creating a study group among the students in your cohort will aid in your success. The professionals within your academic program and clinic settings are there to help you with any questions or concerns you may have. In addition, the students in your cohort are going through similar experiences and working towards the same goals as you. Sharing clinical resources and ideas with your peers will help you expand your clinical tool box and will give you different perspectives on a variety of approaches that can be used with varying populations.

I hope you find these tips and tricks to be helpful as you enter this new and exciting chapter in your life. The path you have chosen will lead you to an extremely rewarding career. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to the wonderful world of speech-language pathology and audiology!

House of Representatives Pass Student Loan Bill
For more information on this bill, click on the link below: http://www.asha.org/News/Advocacy/2013/House-of-Representatives-Pass-Student-Loan-Bill.htm

Click here for a Q & A on the new student loan legislation.

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