By Lauren Mitchell first published on the La Trobe University Bendigo blog August 2, 2017
We bring you a glimpse into the varied profession of speech pathology via three La Trobe Rural Health School alumna doing amazing work in their chosen field.
“A career in speech-language pathology challenges you to use your intellect (the talents of your mind) in combination with your humanity (the gifts in your heart) to do meaningful work that feeds your soul.”
Thanks to alumna Meg Allen for sending us this quote by fellow speech pathologist Megan Hodge. For the former La Trobe student it perfectly sums up her own experiences of the profession.
“Speech pathology is an amazing profession that offers a diverse range of career opportunities,” Meg says. “Supporting people to communicate their needs, wants and desires is incredibly rewarding.”
Meg does just that in her job with the Department of Education and Training. She works across nine primary and secondary schools in the Bendigo/Sandhurst/Campaspe area, helping students with speech and language impairments.
“I always knew I wanted to work with children, I was just unsure in what capacity,” she says. “I also had a keen interest in written language and was considering an arts degree however once I discovered speech pathology, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
Meg says once she got stuck into her course, she then realised how diverse the profession could be. “Who knew that speech pathologists work with adults after stroke and are even responsible for dysphagia (swallowing) management,” she says. “I was also surprised that we work with teachers to develop and support literacy.”
However for Meg, working with children remained her goal and she secured her job in fourth year before graduating. It’s a role that fulfils her daily.
“I work with students presenting with speech difficulties, language impairments, literacy difficulties and much, much more,” she says. “I also work very closely with psychologists, social workers and teachers. The greatest highlight is working with hilarious, happy and bright little people all day.”
Abby King enrolled in La Trobe’s speech pathology course in 2009, in a pursuit to follow her passion for languages. “I studied Italian and English Language in year 12 and thought speech pathology would be the best of both worlds,” she says.
“I expected the course would lead me to work with kids, but speech pathology is much more diverse than I ever expected it to be. There were so many avenues that the course could take me that I had never expected or considered as an option.”
Since graduating Abby has gained experience working with all ages. “After graduating I was able to gain a position within an early intervention service at a hospital, and have since worked in schools and the field of disability,” she says.
“My current role involves a mixed caseload of adults and children with disabilities. I work on a variety of areas of speech pathology with clients including speech, language, swallowing and alternative and augmentative communication.”
Abby says anyone who is eager to make a difference in how other people communicate and who is passionate about improving people’s quality of life should consider a career in speech pathology.
“It’s a profession that has a huge amount of opportunities to work with a range of people of all different ages, abilities and goals of what they want to achieve,” she says.
Ann Reinhardt chose to study speech pathology as a way to change her life. The mature-age student had worked predominantly in hospitality before embarking on tertiary study.
“My motivation to study speech pathology was a combination of a passion to work in the health care field, personal experience and the opportunities speech pathology provides to continue life-long learning and diversify as a career path,” she says. “I completed the course in December 2013 and am currently in my fourth year working as a speech pathologist.”
Ann says her experience of studying was alone enough to widen her horizons. “Some of the highlights were studying with different disciplines and the long-term friendships and working relationships I established,” she says. “And I discovered just how fantastic and rewarding studying can be.”
Ann’s efforts resulted in gaining a number of short-term contracts working across different areas of practice: paediatrics, adults and in a research setting before securing an ongoing full-time position working with inpatients at Bendigo Health.
“My role involves the assessment and management of adults with speech, swallowing, voice and communication impairment,” she says. “My motto is ‘every day is a school day’ and not a day goes by that I am not challenged to learn and do more in my role of speech pathologist. Learning to work in a fast-faced, complex setting can be daunting to start with, which makes it important to have a supportive team to help problem solve and guide practice.”
Ann says a good speech pathologist is someone who has patience, a passion for self-directed, life-long learning, an ability to reflect and change and empathy. “Plus, a sincere love for what they do and the people they work with,” she says. “For me this means not only the patient but their families and carers and the team that I am a part of.”