Nicole Ford, MA, CCC-SLP
Nicole Ford a dedicated NJSHA member and recognized leader has been a strong advocate for school related issues since joining NJSHA in 2009. Nicole earned an undergraduate degree from West Virginia University in 1999 with a degree in speech-language pathology and audiology, and a master’s degree from Seton Hall University in 2005. With a tremendous passion for teaching, Nicole also earned certificates from Montclair State University in both elementary education and educational administration.
Nicole has worked diligently to accomplish many goals throughout her career the most recent rising to a supervisory level in a large urban public school district in October 2022. Nicole works as a Supervisor of Related Services within the Office of Special Education. She worked as a SLP with the school district for 11 years, having provided direct services to children who exhibit a range of challenges associated with speech and language deficits, literacy and a range of issues associated with craniofacial disorders, dysphagia and medical fragility. In addition to her work in the public-school Nicole provides services per diem at a medical center, as well as offers early intervention services to clients. Prior being promoted to her current supervisory position she said her greatest accomplishments have been achieved through NJSHA. She considers the statewide organization to be her “foundation,” helping her grow personally and professionally since she first became an SLP.
Nicole has served as chair of the NJSHA School Affairs Committee from (2020-2022, 2016-2019) and vice chair in 2015. She has worked to advocate for students and school-based speech language pathologists through active engagement with both our membership and the NJ State Department of Education. She has resided on the Board of Directors since 2015 and was treasurer of the Political Action Committee from 2018-2021. Nicole also serves in an advisory role to Rutgers University. Nicole is excited and honored to be in the SLP profession, providing therapy, teaching a clinical fellow, answering NJSHA member questions, providing needed testimony and advocating for the profession through NJSHA as School Affairs Committee (SAC) Chair and as a Board of Directors member.
Why did you join NJSHA?
“I quickly realized the wealth of knowledge and vast resources NJSHA had to offer due to the work of its dedicated members. When I was first starting out, I realized this was an organization I needed to be a part of if I wanted to stay current in my field. It was also a reliable resource for all the questions I had as a new SLP. Little did I know there was so much more than continuing education that an SLP should know about. NJSHA introduced me to the world of advocacy not only for the clients and families served, but for the profession itself.
I personally feel it is everyone’s professional responsibility to remain current within the field. NJSHA is a great way to network – it’s fun, and has helped me to develop my career. I owe much of my success to the volunteers that make up NJSHA. Many have become life-long friends, as well.
Who is your “NJSHA Hero” and why?
“I have a NJSHA Superhero Bunch! That includes Sue Goldman, Robin Kanis, Mary Faella and Maria Rodriguez.”
Sue opened the NJSHA door and welcomed me in. For several years I traveled to her home to sit at the School Affairs Committee meetings in awe of the knowledge held by those sitting around her dining room table, Robin Kanis being one of them. I was like a sponge and just took it all in. Robin and Sue are the dynamic duo. Together they are just amazing with the knowledge they share, and their willingness to help teach, coach, and advocate is altruistic. The two of them have become NJSHA moms to me.
Mary Faella was my first SLP mentor out of school. Years later, we joined forces and became SAC chair and co-chair together. Mary was always a big advocate for her students and for the profession even before joining SAC. When I first started working, Mary gave me a Codebook, a highlighter and stickies; I should have known that was the beginning of something bigger.
Maria Rodriguez and I worked together and then reconnected again through NJSHA. She is now my partner in crime as we navigate through our careers in the schools, as chair and co-chair of SAC, and members of the Board of Directors.
My greatest NJSHA moments are the ones shared with all members. It’s just so nice to be able to pick up the phone and ask a question, discuss a topic, and share a resource with someone I can truly call a friend.”
What is the next challenge you would like to undertake, both professionally and with NJSHA? Why?
My next profession challenge is well underway, now that I am supervisor of related services in such a large public-school district. This was a proud accomplishment as many supervisors are not SLPs and often have a difficult time relating to and understanding the role of SLPs in the school setting.
Additionally, there are not a lot of SLPs in supervisory roles within school settings. One of my personal goals is to create a network of school-based supervisors so we can share ideas and resources. Within NJSHA’s Schools Affairs Committee (SAC), Maria Rodriguez and I are working together to bring in new members and build future leaders to keep NJSHA active and strong.
With the current outlook of the public-school setting and many SLPs retiring, it is imperative for SAC to educate and empower NJSHA members and new professionals to become leaders within their schools.
What is something surprising or unexpected you have learned through your work?
The relationships I have built throughout my career have truly been the most unexpected surprise. This includes NJSHA, work colleagues, clients and families. I’ve learned how to support other disciplines such as OT and PT, teaching has helped me to understand how to connect with them as an SLP to support students, NJSHA has taught me about advocacy, leadership, and the importance educating other professionals. Interactions with clients and families always remind me why I got into this field, not to mention many have also encouraged and help me to practice learning Spanish.
Our field is so vast; I knew there would always be more to learn. However, I didn’t quite understand how important it was to advocate and educate others to keep them abreast of all the changes that are occurring. One of the ways we keep the public updated is via social media. A post is written and posted every Saturday during the school year. The post is called “Saturdays with SAC.”
The unexpected part was uncovering all NJSHA has to offer. If there was one piece of advice I would offer to speech-language pathologists and audiologist out there, it would be to get involved. There are so many ways to open this door. Volunteer for a project, help out at a booth during convention, join a committee meeting, peruse the website and read some of the VOICE’S articles, submit an idea, talk to an active member. We are all very approachable! If nothing else you will gain a friend, isn’t that alone worth it?
the 2022 Honors & Awards Recipients
Lifetime Achievement Award
Honors of the Association
Distinguished Clinical Achievement Award
Distinguished Professional Service Award
New Professional Award
Dr. George Gens Volunteer of the Year Award
Program of the Year
Pines Lake Elementary School
Program of the Year
Speech and Hearing Associates’ Auditory Training Program: A Time to Listen and Connect
Lawrence M. McDonald, Jr., MA, CCC-SLP
Lawrence, “Larry” is one of the newer members of NJSHA, joining five years ago while earning his undergraduate degree from Kean University. Larry was tremendously successful in his studies, graduating with distinction with his master’s degree and being honored as a commencement speaker in 2018.
Larry works as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in pediatric outpatient and early intervention settings. Over the past three years, he has evaluated and treated children 18 months to 14 years of age targeting a wide range of speech and language focused goals – from early foundational communication skills to more advanced language and social skills. He works closely with each family based on a strategy they design together. “I work with the children and their families to select goals that will support functional communication and language development. I love trying to find ways to work these skills into the family’s daily home life,”
What excites you most about your profession?
Working in early intervention is truly a passion of mine. I love seeing those first early demonstrations of symbolic communication, whether that be using sign language, a word or even a simple pointing gesture. I love the excitement that the families feel when their child starts communicating; you feed off of that energy and it really makes the job feel worth it.
Right now, I’m still pretty early in my career. I haven’t gotten any trophies or awards for being a speech therapist. My most rewarding accomplishment is when a family says ‘thank you’ and they are appreciative of the work we’ve done with them and their child. Early intervention is great because we are coming in at such a critical time – so much happens developmentally in those first three years.
How did you become involved with NJSHA?
I was talking with various professors at Kean and discussing the value of networking. Major influencers were Dr. Martin Shulman, Sue Goldman and Donna Spillman-Kennedy. They all spoke so highly about the value of becoming a NJSHA member.
I was introduced to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) during my clinical externship at two specialized schools. I really took an interest in AAC and my passion about it has continued to grow. Donna told me that NJSHA has an AAC Committee and invited me to a meeting. I joined the AAC Committee and, at first, I just listened and learned. I then became further involved and I am truly grateful that I joined.
NJSHA has helped me to network and learn more about the profession. If you need any type of information as a member, you can always call someone. NJSHA is a great resource network as well. There are so many things to learn and know in our field. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming. No one is a master of everything alone, but together at NJSHA, we are. Each member and committee person brings so much to the table.
What NJSHA project or event have you been most excited about?
Being a part of NJSHA has allowed me to improve my professional practice skills overall. When I meet with the AAC Committee, we talk about trainings, ways to incorporate different approaches, how to talk to families and recommend changes that will help others.
Contributing to projects as a part of the committee has also been so rewarding. Last year we completed a brochure that contained information related to AAC and I’ve been able to share that with other professionals and families. I also interviewed an adult AAC user as part of a podcast, and I love to be able to have that on the website, to be able to take a perspective and share it with other professionals.
We come up with ideas and share them with the committee. If we feel there is a gap, we bring everyone together and share the information with as many people as possible. Right now, we are working to share information about AAC with practitioners in early intervention – two of my areas of interest coming together. With this project we’ve had the opportunity to work collaboratively with NJSHA’s Healthcare Committee to find an avenue to distribute the information across the state. There is a lot going on at NJSHA and there are a lot of ways to make a difference. It feels good to be a part of that.
Why should young professionals, your colleagues and former classmates, join this organization?
There are great networking benefits, meeting a lot of people throughout NJSHA. There are also many opportunities to learn. When I first joined the AAC committee it was more about listening and learning than anything else, and now other SLPs at work actually ask me questions about AAC! When I first started out, I couldn’t have imagined that.
As a graduate in the field, becoming a member will also help with career networking. Speech therapy is a small world in the state of New Jersey. You never know who knows who and it always helps to have as wide a network as possible.
Being a part of a professional organization is so important. Members should get involved in a committee to just listen to the other members who are so experienced and have so much information to share. Join anything and everything that interests you! You don’t have to be an active participant at first; NJSHA just wants you to attend, listen and learn. If you develop a real passion for a topic or subject, then maybe you will want to take things a step further and get more involved with projects. Either way, you will learn a lot from just being around.
Who is your NJSHA “Hero” and why?
There’s no doubt; Dr. Martin Shulman is my NJSHA hero. I truly respect him, the way he taught and the way he thinks about everything. He’s a great story teller, and in class he would really keep everyone engaged that way. Dr. Shulman made me so interested in this profession and he has been such an active member of NJSHA. He would also speak about NJSHA and encourage all students to become members. He was NJSHA’s biggest advocate!
I would like to participate in NJSHA to the degree he participated. Dr. Shulman is such an accomplished person, but at the same time he is so down to earth and caring for his students and young people coming into the field. I hope to one day be able to make a difference in the lives of others and contribute to our field the way that he did.
Catherine Curtis, MA, CCC-SLP
Catherine, like many NJSHA members, first learned about the many benefits of NJSHA while still an undergraduate at Kean University. She graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech, language and hearing science, followed by a master’s degree two years later. She earned highest honors at both levels.
She has nearly six years of experience working with both children and adults in the outpatient area. Catherine began and honed her professional skills in an outpatient hospital setting. She also served patients in various assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. Catherine is adjusting to her new role serving adult outpatients and inpatients at a New Jersey hospital, while also serving as a per diem therapist at a pediatric outpatient hospital. Despite being a younger speech-language pathologist (SLP), Catherine has received the ACE (Award for Continuing Education) Award from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) this year.
VOICES had the opportunity to speak with Catherine to learn more about why she is a member of NJSHA and what excites her about the profession.
You have tremendous pride in being a SLP. Why are you so happy to have chosen this profession?
I love to work with patients across the life span. I work with adults who have had a change in their cognitive-linguistic skills, language skills, swallowing skills and voice skills due to various medical conditions. My adult patients are cognizant of the changes in their skills. They are so thankful and truly appreciate everything I do for them. Working with the adult population and helping them return to their baseline is so rewarding. I also really enjoy working with children, addressing language and speech disorders as well as conducting feeding therapy for children with delays and/or medical conditions. With my pediatric population, it is the parents who are able to immediately recognize their children’s progress and observe the steady improvements in their child’s skills. Like the adult population, they are so appreciative of the positive changes that I have helped facilitate as a SLP and they are motivated to continue performing at the best of their ability.
What professional accomplishment are you most excited about?
That would happen to be when I became the vice chair of NJSHA’s Healthcare Committee with Barbara Schwerin Bohus. Together we work with other committee members to keep fellow SLPs up-to-date with the changes in health care related to our field. We also advocate for change in our field by working with professionals to lobby for change in regulations and government.
It was one of the key reasons I joined NJSHA. I wanted access to this mentorship, to better understand my profession and to work with people who have been leaders in the profession for decades. Everyone in NJSHA has been so eager to support and guide me. Joining NJSHA’s Healthcare Committee gave me a better understanding of the insurance industry, as well as guidelines and protocols related to my profession as an SLP. I find it all very engaging and exciting.
When I joined NJSHA, I first started as a committee member for Membership and Health Care. As a committee member I attended meetings discussing changes in health care and ways to build membership. In addition, I have worked on projects such as updating the website to make sure all information was current as well as easy to access for members. I have also created fun interactive games for members to play at the Convention. Lastly, I assisted in running the membership meet and greet events at which the members were able to meet and converse with other professionals from different parts of the state!
Who is your “NJSHA Hero” and why?
There are so many NJSHA members who have influenced me and continue to influence or guide me presently. If I had to select one person who has been the most influential in my career and profession, it would be Barbara Schwerin Bohus. She has taught me so much about leadership, about Medicare and Medicaid, about best practices in our profession and the many health care issues affecting the SLP community. She took a chance on me as a new SLP and that speaks volumes about her character and leadership. Barbara is extremely busy, yet she always finds the time to provide me with the guidance needed to grow professionally. Working with her has provided me with opportunities I could never have expected.
With the dysphagia subcommittee of NJSHA’s Healthcare Committee, we are working on a white paper to change the guidelines that limit a SLP’s ability to perform a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) test. This instrumental bedside test is used to assess a patient’s swallowing function. New Jersey is the only state that requires a physician to be present during the procedure. We believe the law needs to be changed to allow for the procedure to be performed with only supervision from a nurse, who has a more flexible schedule to be present for the examination. I cannot wait to present this white paper. If the law is passed, it will be a great accomplishment and have real benefits for individuals with swallowing problems!
Why should other young SLPs and audiologists join the Association?
There are so many reasons! NJSHA is at the core of our profession; we work together as professionals to share ideas and information. We advocate for each other professionally and we fight to raise awareness, make improvements in all areas of our field (i.e., health care, schools, multicultural, legislative).
NJSHA is also great for networking. Everyone is so nice and pleasant to work with! If you need a mentor, want to attend events with people who have like-minded interests or just make new friends, NJSHA is the place to go. This is a very small field, especially in New Jersey. We all need to stick together, in order to have a strong, collective voice in New Jersey to advocate for our profession and our patient’s.
In the future, I would be honored to become the president of NJSHA and the incredible association of professionals it represents! It would be a remarkable accomplishment as I have always felt it is important to become the change you envision. NJSHA has and continues to advocate a lot of change for patients and our profession in New Jersey. Being able to lead and help NJSHA grow will help amplify the multitude of good that NJSHA has already accomplished.
Join me! The easiest way to get involved is to email info@NJSHA.org. You can also follow NJSHA on social media, volunteer for committees and definitely attend the Annual Convention. We are the next generation and we need to keep our profession thriving in New Jersey.
Anything else we should know about you?
Yes! Normally when I am not at work or engaging in NJSHA events you can find me in the kitchen trying out new recipes with my boyfriend. We love cooking Italian cuisine. I am also a true animal lover and can be found hanging with my wonderful pups and cats!
Linda Tucker-Simpson, MS, CCC-SLP
Linda is one of a select group of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who have been NJSHA members for more than 30 years. She has also been one of the most active long-time members of NJSHA, joining in 1985, after relocating to New Jersey from Florida six years after earning her graduate degree. Her dedication to NJSHA is both exemplary and inspiring as she has served in many capacities always striving to fulfill our Association’s mission and goals. She worked at University Hospital in Newark for 33 years, ultimately serving as an acute inpatient and outpatient hospital manager. Recognizing the importance of training students and young professionals in medical speech-language pathology (SLP), Linda initiated the SLP Student Program at University Hospital. She and her colleagues readily accepted interns and clinical fellows, mentoring them to develop clinical skills and enlightening them on what compassionate care truly is. She retired in 2018, and she moved to Woolwich Township, Gloucester County, where she works part-time as an SLP at Camden Prep Charter School. She remains actively involved in NJSHA sharing her knowledge, talents and experiences with others. Linda is the current chair of the Ethics Education Committee.
Ms. Tucker-Simpson has experienced it all, serving in hospital management, home care, early intervention, a specialty hospital for tracheostomy and ventilator patients, assisted living, nursing homes and working in a residential facility for children and adults. Additionally, she was an adjunct professor at Montclair State University and she operated a private practice.
She has been honored numerous times by her NJSHA peers, such as the Honors of the Association in 2015, Distinguished Service Award in 2007, and her employer, University Hospital, awarded her the University Excellence Award in 1997. She also received the ASHA Award for Continuing Education (ACE) in 1988, 1991, 2001, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2021.
What is the most rewarding part of being a NJSHA member?
NJSHA gives me the ideal platform to advocate for issues that interest me both personally and professionally. I have the opportunity to work on the state level to address the needs of SLPs and audiologists (AUDs) throughout the state, to promote legislation and find pathways to better serve consumers of speech-language pathology and audiology services. I worked with NJSHA colleagues as part of a telepractice/telehealth task force to establish initial parameters and language regarding telemedicine and ensured SLPs and AUDs were represented in this law. This legislation, signed into law 2017, has provided the foundation to enable law makers, health care providers and school-based clinicians to negotiate the COVID-19 pandemic to serve patients and students in New Jersey.
Most recently, when I served as NJSHA president from 2013-2015, by working with the NJSHA Legislative Agent and audiology allies, we were able to initiate the steps toward single licensure for audiologists. NJSHA’s legislative efforts have ultimately resulted in the passage of this very important bill receiving unanimous approval by two legislative committees and by the full Senate and Assembly, with Governor Murphy signing the law in March 2019. This law was officially adopted and published in the New Jersey Register on May 17, 2021. Amendments to AUDs’ scope of practice now includes dispensing and fitting of hearing aids under a single license. This legislative success showed what NJSHA members can do when we work together and engage with our allies. It has been tremendously satisfying to hear members’ concerns and advocate for them throughout my tenure.
What would you describe as the hallmark of your service to NJSHA over 36 years?
I would definitely have to say it would be my leadership in NJSHA’s Multicultural Issues Committee, becoming chair in 1988, and serving in that role for at least 20 years. The committee worked on many issues, such as providing education, information and best practices that monolingual and multi-lingual SLPs and AUDs could utilize when working with multicultural and bilingual students and patients. Under my leadership the committee initiated annual student symposiums that educate graduate students in SLP programs throughout the state on issues related to multiculturalism and bilingualism.
As a person of color, I felt it was important to be actively engaged at all levels of the Association to address the perception that leadership in NJSHA was only for professionals of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds. It was very important for people to know that in NJSHA, it does not matter whether you work in schools, hospitals, universities, home-care, early intervention, private practice or if you are a graduate student, there is a place for you to serve and to use your talents. I wanted people to know that NJSHA is a place where you can not only enhance your clinical skills through continuing education, you can also grow your leadership skills through participation on one of the numerous committees that NJSHA offers.
I have wanted members to know that NJSHA is not an elitist association, that all are welcome, that it is important to get involved and that their opinions truly matter.
How has NJSHA changed since you were president?
One of my goals as president was to encourage more members of color to seek leadership roles in NJSHA. Since my term ended as president, the board of directors and committee membership have become more diverse. I have seen how flexible and adaptable the board of directors, committee members as well as the membership at-large has been while addressing the barriers and issues brought on by COVID-19. NJSHA has continued to thrive and evolve, while addressing a very difficult moment in history.
I am also pleased to see our great advances in digital communication. Through remote digital meeting platforms, it is now easier and far more convenient for committee members to participate in meetings and events without the burden of traveling to a specific location. The new NJSHA website also looks more professional than ever and is efficient as well as user-friendly. Use of social media has become an effective means to connect with and to educate members, students, potential members and the public. As NJSHA continues to strive to fulfill our Association’s mission and achieve our strategic goals, staying connected is key. I look back on our amazing history, celebrate our current leaders cultivated by our rich legacy and I look forward to welcoming future leaders to NJSHA.
Kathy Palatucci is the president-elect of the New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA). Kathy retired from Montclair State University in December as the speech clinic director. In that role over the past four years, she served as a clinical educator, professional specialist and externship coordinator. Kathy has 24 years of experience across many of the clinical settings fellow NJSHA members work, including special education schools, hospitals, inpatient rehab, skilled nursing facilities, sub-acute rehab, home health care, early intervention, outpatient pediatric and adult services, private practice and university clinic.
Unlike most NJSHA members, Kathy came to her career as a speech-language pathologist after more than 15 years as a professional singer and voice teacher.
Kathy attended graduate school for speech-language pathology initially to help those with voice difficulties and “ended up loving it all,” she said. Kathy was eager to learn the profession across all practice areas, helping patients through the rehabilitative process. It led to a long, satisfying second career, with the opportunity to develop lifelong friendships through NJSHA.
Now, as she embarks on retirement, Kathy looks forward to ascending to NJSHA president on July 1, 2021, and will lean on many of her experiences to steer the Association over the next two years. As the winner of the 2017 NJSHA Dr. George Gens Volunteer of the Year Award, Kathy knows that those who generously donate their time are the true backbone of NJSHA.
Why is NJSHA important to you?
“NJSHA is a terrific community of like-minded professionals. Our membership embraces the highest standards, is passionate about the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology and is fully committed to serving clients. We are a proud organization in which our members are eager to stay informed and connected, as we work together to advocate for those we serve. NJSHA is boundless in offering leadership and mentorship opportunities, as we identify challenges and solve industry problems.
I still recall how Hilda Pressman invited me to join the Healthcare Committee after attending my very first NJSHA Convention at the Atlantic City Convention Center in 2006. The opportunity to interact with hundreds of professionals around the state with similar passions is so memorable. I still remember standing up and asking a health care related question during the plenary session with 800 others. After that, I knew I wanted to be involved in NJSHA, help the organization in any capacity and work hard to recruit others who could also benefit from this special membership.
One of the most critical challenges in the past year has been our response to COVID-19. Our members have been really incredible: eager to share ideas and always ready to support each other. The NJSHA family has provided many ways in which members can connect as they navigate these difficult times.
Seeing others via Zoom due to the need to social distance has enabled more to participate in giving and receiving crucial information. The pandemic information posted on the website has been extremely important, not only for members but for all our professional associates throughout the state. NJSHA has truly been a goodwill ambassador during this time, another reason why this Association is so important to me.”
What vision do you have for our membership as you prepare to move into your position as association president?
“I can best describe the membership as concentric circles – all with the same mission and vision. As a volunteer organization, there’s a small core of members who do a tremendous amount of work [five percent], while there is a larger number who give their time to serve on committees or assist with events [10 percent]. The large majority of our members – about 75 percent – are involved to primarily attend continuing education events, while there is a remaining 10 percent who I believe are on the periphery. They continue their membership, but find it difficult to commit more time and energy to NJSHA.
I am convinced that member engagement is important for us as NJSHA to bring members one ring closer as they connect with like-minded professionals. We want to encourage as many members as possible to serve on committees or help with programming so that they can experience all this wonderful Association has to offer.”
What are you looking forward to as the next NJSHA president?
“I have very large shoes to fill; Robynne Kratchman is doing a tremendous job. With her strong leadership, she has been able to navigate NJSHA through these challenging waters, keeping members involved and engaged. Robynne has proven herself time and time again to be a focused, deliberate and committed president. I look forward to building on the work of Robynne, as well as Mary Faella who served as president before Robynne and has remained actively involved as immediate past president. I have learned so much from both of them in recent years. It has been such a privilege.
I have identified three areas of focus during my term as NJSHA president; I call them “NJSHA’s CCC.” These three are reflected as threads throughout the Strategic Plan developed for 2021-2023:
- Communication: to other committees; to members; to families/caregivers and to the public;
- Collaboration: working together; understanding the overlap between the NJSHA committees and the professions of their members; and
- Connection/Member Engagement: I want to make NJSHA personal. I see this demonstrated now; everyone wants and needs more connection. This makes membership in NJSHA more meaningful and more productive as we advocate for our profession and those who we serve.
As we move beyond this pandemic, I look forward to working with my NJSHA colleagues making these three areas a priority.”
Mary Treuer, a passionate and energetic speech-language pathologist (SLP), is not one to stand idle when patient needs are not being met. Mary joined the Health Care Committee and soon initiated a dysphagia subcommittee to address the needs of patients with dysphagia. The objective was to inform colleagues in New Jersey about what New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NJSHA) members can do to meet the needs of the adult population in skilled nursing facilities.
Mary, an experienced bilingual Spanish-speaking SLP, has demonstrated a history of working in inpatient, home health and educational settings. Her Master of Arts degree focused in communication sciences and disorders, speech-language pathology from Montclair State University. Mary’s undergraduate degree is in advertising communication and Spanish from Marist College. She also studied Spanish and humanities at the University of Sevilla, fully immersing herself in the language and culture further enriching her experience and preparing her to be a bilingual SLP.
After earning her graduate degree at Montclair State University in 2016, Mary has had the opportunity to work in education and health care settings. Mary says she spends her days working with young children in the Orange School District serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade. She additionally provides services to nonagenarians through per diem work at both the Atlantic Health System and RWJ/Barnabas.
“You can say I work with clients from age five to age 105,” Mary said, with a laugh. “So, this career is really a great opportunity to incorporate my skills across a wide breadth of people’s skills and challenges.”
VOICES sat down with Mary, of Denville, to learn more about her career and why she cherishes her membership in NJSHA.
What excites you about the SLP profession?
“There are so many types of positive experiences throughout my day, as well as opportunities to have my work recognized through NJSHA. I’m 30 years old, with five years of experience. I already have so much to be proud of. I have had the opportunity to help people speak again after they suffered a stroke or significant brain damage. I have helped people regain the ability to swallow and I have had the chance to collaborate closely with families at the hospital. In addition, I have worked closely with parents and their children to overcome speech issues so that they can become better learners in school.”
Why do you find NJSHA so valuable for your career advancement?
“I first became involved in NJSHA about a year into the field because I wanted to be part of an organization that advocates every day for what I do for a living. I wanted to be part of a team that advocates to state legislators on behalf of our industry and that informs me of what is happening at the state and national level. I also wanted to be part of the state Convention and be part of a true community as I fulfill my professional requirements, while developing lifelong camaraderie.
There is so much value in joining NJSHA, and having access to leaders in the field who are eager to help. I love the opportunity to continue learning about the field, as well as receiving updates about regulations and how it all directly affects the administration of health care. NJSHA provides tailored, relevant continuing education that I find invaluable for the work that I do every day. There is no reason for an SLP to not get involved; membership dues are very reasonable and the opportunities are endless to succeed.”
Who is your “NJSHA Hero” and why?
“There is no question that my NJSHA Hero is Barbara Schwerin Bohus, MS, CCC-SLP, a veteran, hospital-based SLP. Barbara spent her time educating me about the many values and benefits of NJSHA membership. She pulled me along to become an advocate for our industry. I look up to her as the type of SLP I hope to one day be. She seems to have all the answers, and she was the one who made sure I attended the state Convention. I even had the opportunity to speak before my colleagues at the 2019 NJSHA Convention. As a new person in this association, with a new career, I was already a peer presenter! I really want to thank Barbara for her continued guidance and friendship, which has meant all the world to me as I learned the many benefits of NJSHA membership.”
What is your next challenge?
“People are always asking me that well-known question: `Where do you see yourself in five years?’ My goal, eventually, is to open my own private practice. My husband is a mental health therapist so maybe, together, we can offer teletherapy services at home and in-person. And maybe we bring along a physical therapist and an occupational therapist for a full array of services. Whatever happens, I will definitely rely on guidance from my friends and colleagues in NJSHA, who are eager for me to succeed in whatever part of the industry I choose to work.”
What is something surprising or unexpected you have learned through your position?
“There is a lot of poverty where I work. Some people don’t have access to nutritious food on a regular basis. What is the most surprising in Essex County, where I work, is the enormous disparity. There are a lot of very wealthy areas and a lot of very poor ones. These are different worlds that often do not meet. As an SLP, and a proud member of NJSHA, I am proud to serve all residents, no matter their income, and do what I can to ensure everyone has access to quality speech-language services. As a bilingual professional, I believe I offer a very important service to diverse populations that are not always represented, doing my best to make sure that their voices are heard too.
I am flattered to be part of this profession and part of this organization. I so much look forward to growing over the years with my colleagues. There are such tremendous mentors in NJSHA. I am so fortunate to be involved!”
Justine Luminoso, MA, CCC-SLP, continues to expand her career as she embarks on her second year of work as a newly certified speech-language pathologist and an active NJSHA member. During her graduate training, Justine worked in public schools, administering formal assessments to preschool through middle school students presenting with various receptive, expressive and social communication disorders. She was also assigned to an inpatient rehabilitation hospital, evaluating and treating patients with cognitive communication disorders, expressive/receptive language disorders, traumatic brain injury and voice disorders. She continued to expand her career by serving as NJSHA’s chair of the Student Involvement Committee, where she focused on establishing, maintaining and enhancing an active network among students in New Jersey speech-language pathology programs and to increase student membership in the association. Justine additionally served as the student representative for the NJSHA Board of Directors (2018-2019) where she had the opportunity to work alongside professionals who served as mentors and collaborative partners while supporting the needs of students and promoting association projects.
Why did you choose to become a speech-language pathologist (SLP)?
In 2014, my grandfather suffered a stroke and needed speech therapy. Unfortunately, he passed away within a week; however, during that difficult time, I was able to see how SLPs helped my grandfather, from feeding him, to helping him to talk, to answering our questions in order for us to communicate with him. It was really touching. I saw how SLPs can help people regain their skills, as well as develop them. As a child, I had a very hard time pronouncing “S,” and an SLP was there for me. I will always remember that. I knew being an SLP was the career for me.
Today, I am a newly certified SLP, working at Speech and Hearing Associates in Westfield. I am so excited about what I do. Everyday, I can put smiles on the faces of my clients. I can watch their progress, and I have the tremendous satisfaction of knowing I was able to help them communicate better. The appreciation from my clients and their families is so rewarding.
How did you become involved in NJSHA?
I joined as an undergraduate at Kean University, after the urging of Professor Marty Shulman, who has been encouraging his students to join for decades. We went to our first NJSHA Convention and I was hooked! I became the representative of the Student Involvement Committee at NJSHA in my graduate year at Kean and have been happily involved ever since.
It has been terrific to meet with so many experienced SLPs and audiologists in the state. Everyone is so welcoming and eager to help, such as with recommendations for clinical fellowships or with possible career opportunities. I know I can reach out with a question and so many NJSHA members will want to help me. It is such a wonderful group of people.
What NJSHA project have you been most excited about?
I had the opportunity to work last year on NJSHA’s “Community Caring Connect” project, in which we set up a booth at the NJSHA Convention in Long Branch and provided materials for participants to decorate superhero capes, which we then donated to the pediatric unit of Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune. It was so awesome to decorate the capes and then deliver them to the hospital, where we were able to take photos with staff. It was all-around a great event and so worthwhile. I’ll never forget it.
I received plenty of support on this project from Donna Spillman-Kennedy, which is why I consider her to be my “NJSHA Hero.” She has guided me through this entire journey as an amazing colleague and has really trusted me. Donna always assures me “everything will be ok,” and she has always been there for whatever I need.
Working with Donna on the “Community Caring Connect” campaign underscored to me, yet again, that NJSHA is a family. We may not know everyone, as there are so many members across New Jersey, but I know that I can always rely on the association members whenever I need guidance or a trusted resource.
How can others get more involved in NJSHA?
NJSHA has so many committees; there are endless ways for members to get involved in whatever area they have passion and interest.
For me, it is about continuing to grow NJSHA. The last Convention was cancelled, as we all know, so we lost an opportunity to interact. We plan to have another “Community Caring Connect” project. The current student representative for the NJSHA Board of Directors and I want to get more students involved in this community service campaign. There needs to be a focus on the next generation of NJSHA, and we need to continue to be mentors for these students.
I want these speech and audiology students to be very comfortable coming to me and asking questions about NJSHA and the profession. It wasn’t very long ago that I was one of them, so I really see things through their eyes. That is why I still want to be connected with NJSHA’s Student Involvement Group and look for ways to start new projects and get back to the universities, where we can bring other students into NJSHA. We want these students to grow with us, take advantage of the many benefits of NJSHA and see what we can accomplish next, together.
Barbara Schwerin Bohus
Barbara Schwerin Bohus, MS, CCC-SLP, veteran hospital-based speech-language pathologist (SLP) has devoted her long career to patients, staff and students in training. She has served as vice chair or chair of the NJSHA Health Care Committee for more than 10 years and has been an advocate for patients as well as SLPs regarding legislative and practice issues. Barbara has served as the ASHA appointed State Advocates for Reimbursement (STAR) and the State Advocate for Medicare Policy Network (StAMP) representing New Jersey since 2003. As supervisor of speech-language therapy in a New Jersey hospital, Barbara has encountered many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for her service and want to share with you what it has been like for SLPs working on the front line.
Q: How has your work as a hospital-based SLP impacted patient care during the COVID-19 response? What is the role of the SLP team?
The general public has recognized health care workers for all that they have done during the pandemic; however, most people don’t understand the role of an SLP and why one would be needed. Our essential job is to address inpatients with COVID-19 who have dysphagia. We did not know what type of swallowing deficits would occur secondary to this diagnosis. We quickly learned how weak these patients are. Patients had difficulty sitting up, feeding themselves and moving at all during eating/drinking. We kept a careful eye on their respiratory and heart rate. We dealt with high flow nasal cannulas and non-rebreather masks.
As the number of patients grew, so did the role of health care workers. Many therapists were deployed with changes in their shifts in order to work when and where they were needed. For example, they served as runners for nurses or helped with prone positioning of inpatients to improve oxygenation.
There has been so many changes in health care delivery. By mid-March, hospitals were no longer permitting visitors. It was eerie to go through the halls, filled only with hospital workers, as loved ones could not be there. SLPs and other medical workers were present in order for the patients not to be alone and to soothe them as best they could.
Q: What has been most impactful to you as you have been on the front line during this time?
The world quickly changed for the SLP in this unprecedented time. We had to learn immediately how to treat a COVID-19 inpatient. We learned the changes in donning and doffing PPE, such as how to wash our hands with our gloves on. At the beginning of all of this, hospitals were quickly developing policies and changing them according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were new directives every day. This caused some fear and anxiety among the SLPs. Some professionals were concerned, as they never agreed to serve during a pandemic and were worried about potentially infecting their families and small children when they went home. SLPs needed to be brave, to walk into the inpatient’s room and to treat an inpatient while a roommate might be dying.
We are pleased to see that the balance is shifting in the hospital where I work in northern New Jersey. There are now more non-COVID-19 inpatients than COVID-19 inpatients. We have come to know a new normal. The hospital staff must have their temperatures taken before permitted to enter a building on the hospital grounds. New protocols and procedures are being formulated, for instance how to work with outpatients who have dysphagia, laryngectomies or tracheostomies considering that there is a risk of aerosolization. The upper aerodigestive track and when appropriate the lower respiratory track must be tested for COVID-19. The patient and the SLP must remain protected moving forward with proper PPE, i.e., face shields and gowns. Outpatient rooms need to be safeguarded from any aerosolization by being shut down and cleaned after treatments.
Q: Are there some positive outcomes you see as a result of this experience?
Teamwork is the most positive outcome. I watched a group of professionals come together to handle so much stress with more patience than during a regular workday in the hospital setting.
Initially, nurses entered newly made negative pressure inpatient rooms to complete dysphagia evaluations without complaint while SLPs looked through newly designed doors with glass windows to guide the nurses through the testing and to view the patients’ results. This method of testing was conducted until the SLPs were educated regarding donning/doffing of PPE and there was enough PPE available for the non-nursing staff.
Nursing aide assistants entered the patients’ rooms to assist the SLPs even before we had to request help with repositioning inpatients or needing supplies. Staff from Environmental Services had to clean inpatients’ rooms, and all health care workers helped with delivering items into patients’ rooms or making the rooms neater.
One of the most memorable moments were the clap-outs when patients were discharged from the hospital who survived COVID-19 including fellow peers on staff. It was wonderful to see police and fire departments along with the public expressing appreciation of the health care and essential workers. The recognition made me feel emotional with sentiments that I had bottled up inside.
Q: Who is your NJSHA hero?
It sounds cliché; however, my NJSHA hero is our president, Robynne Kratchman, for all of her work during this very difficult time. She is ensuring every area of speech-language pathology and audiology is recognized, and sharing how we are all impacted during this pandemic. Robynne is doing an excellent job of keeping the NJSHA website current and informative. She has the capacity to look at all facets of our field and find ways to create a positive impact on all NJSHA members.
Dr. Marykate Vaughn
The year 2020 marks the 30th year in practice for audiologist Marykate Vaughn, AuD, CCC-A. A NJSHA member since her student days, Marykate credits the Association with playing an essential part in enhancing her career. After receiving her undergraduate degree in speech-language pathology/audiology from Trenton State College (now TCNJ), Marykate pursued her master’s degree in audiology at Kean University where she met Martin Shulman, PhD, CCC-SLP. She recalls how Dr. Shulman, a NJSHA legend, would hand out membership applications to students in all the graduate courses he taught. “He always told us that we would never regret joining NJSHA,” Marykate said. “And I never have. I’ve been a member now for more than 25 years.”
A NJSHA Board member since 2011, Marykate has been a leader in New Jersey’s audiology community for decades. Early in her career, NJSHA nominated her for a position on the New Jersey Audiology and Speech Language Pathology Advisory Committee, the professional licensure board in the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, where she served from 1992 to 1998, including a term as Committee Chair. An active member of NJSHA’s Audiology, Legislative and Convention Committees, Marykate served on the Executive Council as part of her tenure as a NJSHA Board member. She has found that being involved in audiology outside of daily practice has contributed to her personal and professional growth. “Being involved on issues related to scope of practice, legislative affairs, continuing education and other professional matters, has impacted my approach to clinical care and motivation to follow best practices.”
NJSHA places a significant focus of its attention on audiologists, a strong component of the Association’s membership, and ensures that the profession benefits from the Association’s legislative agenda and public outreach programming. “Because of NJSHA’s ongoing advocacy efforts, the Association has a strong reputation across many state entities including the Division of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Education and the Department of Health. I’ve been proud to represent NJSHA and our patient populations in meetings with legislators and other professionals over the years.”
Marykate is pleased with NJSHA’s strong legislative advocacy, most notably the passing of the audiology single license bill. Members of NJSHA and the New Jersey Academy of Audiology (NJAA) have been advocating for this legislation for 10 years in the halls of Trenton. Governor Phil Murphy finally signed a bill in March 2019, allowing audiologists who hold a degree from an accredited graduate program to fit hearing aids without the need for a second license. The regulations are in the process of review by the attorney general and should soon be entering the final phases for enactment.
As audiologists are aware, there are currently many pressing issues within the profession. That is why Marykate and other prominent audiologists in NJSHA and NJAA continue to ensure that the audiology track at NJSHA Conventions include programming that focuses on the challenges and opportunities facing audiologists in this new decade. This includes sessions on age related hearing loss, ethics, patient-centered care, amplification technologies and changes in service delivery models. “Through my career I have seen the profession of audiology evolve from the master’s to doctoral level entry education requirement. By virtue of our training, audiologists are the premier hearing healthcare professionals, and we must promote ourselves as such, and emphasize the importance of our services and expertise.”
With a successful, 30-year career as an audiologist and years of leadership in NJSHA, what is next for Marykate?
In her clinical practice as an audiologist with Summit Medical Group since 2013, Marykate enjoys working with people of all ages, from babies to seniors. “I love the diversity in our patient population, but I have a special passion for working with the aging population. I am very focused on working with people who are aging and trying to support them,” she said. “Growing older brings increasing challenges both physical and cognitive. I want to promote living better as we live longer. Hearing is a critical element that keeps people connected, engaged and active. Hearing loss can lead to isolation, and early identification and treatment is essential.”
Marykate said there needs to be more education about hearing aids and ensuring that people use them correctly. There has been such a marked improvement in device technology and individuals should seek audiology services to ensure their devices are well-fitted and to learn to use them most effectively. This includes aural rehabilitation and training in communication strategies. “Hearing is more about your brain, than it is about your ears,” she said.
“With NJSHA’s help, I would love to promote increased awareness of the impact of hearing loss on the aging population, and the importance of early identification. We recognize how critical it is to identify hearing loss in children early, I would like to see the same emphasis on early diagnosis of hearing loss in adults.” Often, she said, many adults have not had a hearing test since their elementary school days. Marykate emphasized the need to educate primary care physicians (PCPs) on the link between aging, hearing loss and other health concerns. PCPs should be screening for hearing loss as part of an adult well visit and referring those who don’t pass to an audiologist for evaluation. Educating physicians and patients on the early signs of hearing loss, and the negative health outcomes that can be associated with untreated hearing loss, in addition to discussing risk factors – family history, noise exposure, medications and practicing prevention, can raise awareness and potentially reduce negative effects later on. Just as many people have vision loss, they will likely also have hearing loss over time, and that number is increasing as our population lives longer. “Patients should be aware of the impact of hearing loss on their day-to-day communication, long-term health and quality of life. I want people to be best prepared for the next phase of life.”