The transition from University to work is an exciting and rewarding time.
As new possibilities and opportunities open, new challenges can also arise.
Whilst every new graduate will have their own unique experiences, and their own questions, thoughts, and queries, there are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that are common to many as they near or begin to commence practice.
Guess who these fresh faced new graduates are
Some of these FAQs are to be found below –
click on each question and you will find some information and/or suggested resources.
These FAQs came out of a Victorian Branch initiative and were developed by a Task Group of Victorian Branch members who were about to graduate, newly graduated, and the ‘not so newly’ graduated - Noni Bourke, Sharon Crane, Kate Fleming, Jessica Hayward, Chris Lyons, Vanessa Murray and Tania McGuire.
We hope you find the FAQs of assistance.
- I wonder about the various areas I can work in as a speech pathologist.
- I would like information on caseloads and scope of practice as a new graduate.
- I am looking for employment.
- I am in a position with limited supervision. What can I do?
- I am working in an interdisciplinary team setting and this is new to me. Where can I find information on this?
- I am interested in working in Private Practice.
- In what ways can I access professional development?
- I would like to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
- I am looking to work overseas
- I would like to contribute to Speech Pathology Australia – how can I do this?
- My experience as a new graduate speech pathologist.
Speech pathologists can work in a wide variety of areas. If you would like more information, the ‘Scope of Practice in Speech Pathology’ document describes the breadth of professional practice carried out within the speech pathology profession in Australia. The level of education, experience, skill or competency required to carry out the activities will vary among individual providers, but typically, a speech pathologist does not work with all populations or practise in all contexts listed in this Scope of Practice.
Speech Pathology Australia has information that may be of benefit and interest as you commence and continue practice, including the the ‘Scope of Practice in Speech Pathology’ document that describes the breadth of professional practice carried out within the speech pathology profession in Australia Scope Of Practice
and the ‘Principles of Practice document which contains information on Standards of Practice, Recommended Minimum Facilities, and Guidelines for Good Practice. http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/about-spa/policies-and-procedures
If you would like to view information on the minimum skill, knowledge base and attitudes required for entry-level practice of the profession, the Competency-Based Occupational Standards (CBOS) for speech pathologists in Australia at the level of entry to the profession can be found at http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/professional-standards-ps/competency-based-occupational-standards
Our practice as members of Speech Pathology Australia is bound and underpinned by the Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics outlines Values, Principles, Standards of Practice, Duties to our Clients and to the Community, Duties to our Employers, and Duties to our Colleagues, and Using the Code of Ethics.
Information on clinical and workplace issues relevant to the speech pathology profession can be found in the Association’s Clinical Guidelines. These Clinical Guidelines may serve as a summary of available evidence, unresolved issues and current practice at a 'point in time' and can be useful in obtaining information and current references on a topic or issue, and informing key stakeholders during workplace negotiations.
Clinical Guidelines are currently available in the following areas:
- Evidence Based Speech Pathology Practice for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Speech Pathology in Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services
- Speech Pathology Services in Schools
- Working in a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Society
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication
- Dysphagia: General
- Dysphagia: Modified Barium Swallow
- Tracheostomy Management
- Fibreoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) An Advanced Practice for Speech Pathologists
Position Statements are also available and are a summary of information on clinical and workplace issues relevant to the speech pathology profession. They state the position of Speech Pathology Australia relating to a particular topic. http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/publications/position-statements
Current Position Statements include:
- The Role and Value of Professional Support
- The role and responsibility of speech pathologists in assessing, diagnosing and treating clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Clinical Education - The importance and value for the speech pathology profession
- Dual Entry to the speech pathology profession
- Baby Sign
- Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES)
- Transdicsiplinary Practice
Speech Pathologists have a number of different resources available to them when looking for employment. If you are a member of Speech Pathology Australia (SPA) the ‘Seeking Employment’ section under Education & Careers is a great place to start: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/education-and-careers/jobs/seeking-employment. ‘Seeking Employment’ allows you to post information about yourself, including your past experience, preferred caseload and position setting.
Other more generic employment websites available to all are www.seek.com.auand www.mycareer.com.au. These sites offer information about the employer, are generally current and offer a wide range of jobs. As with general databases, you can narrow your search by location, sector, work type, salary, or the date posted.
The employment section of your daily newspaper, such as The Age, will often have duplicates of the aforementioned websites. However, it is possible that you may come across advertisements that you would not have otherwise seen. Finally, keep your ear to the ground! Word-of-mouth is often touted to be the best form of advertising, so it pays to network with your industry peers.
Your application for a position as a speech pathologist:
- When compiling a Curriculum Vitae for a position as a Speech Pathologist it should be presented in a highly professional manner. It should be succinct, yet comprehensive.
- Your resumé should list your academic and training qualifications – including awards, prizes and scholarships – as well as previous paid employment and any volunteer work. It is also advisable to list your employable skills and other relevant interests and talents, such as foreign languages spoken or activities undertaken with particular age groups or populations (e.g. children, the elderly, or people with a disability or learning difficulty).
- If applicable to the position, include your possession of an up-to-date Police Check and a Working with Children Check. Each state and territory differs as to whether speech pathologists working in private practice require a Working with Children Check or Police Check –for a links to current requirements, go to http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/resources/working-with-children-checks-and-police-checks
- Membership of Speech Pathology Australia demonstrates a commitment to one’s own professional development and to the growth of the profession as a whole.
- Contact any potential referees prior to including them. Referees could include the names of your Placement Supervisors, who can attest to your interpersonal and clinical skills.
- Make sure your covering letter addresses the key selection criteria in the Position Description.
- For further information on how to write a successful resumé, there are a number of websites you can explore, such as http://career-advice.careerone.com.au/resume-cover-letter/resume-writing/resume-writing-the-basics/article.aspx.
Before attending an interview:
- Be sure to thoroughly research the organisation or institution, so that you have a clear understanding of its ethos, aims and practices and can present as well-informed and showing a keen and genuine interest in the available position.
- Consider compiling a portfolio to take to the interview.
- Try to think of possible questions and what your replies would be.
- Practise / role play an interview.
Industrial Awards and Unions:
- To find out more information about awards and relevant unions, contact your employer’s Human Resources Department, or visit the SPA website and go to http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/education-and-careers/unions-and-industrial-awards.
- Information can also be sought from Speech Pathology Australia has taken out an annual subscription to Victorian Hospitals' Industrial Association (VHIA), an organisation with affiliates nationally who specialise in industrial relations, human resource management, and employment law across Australia. Visit the VHIA website www.vhia.com.au
‘The Role and Value of Professional Support’ Position Statement outlines the view of Speech Pathology Australia that professional support and clinical practice supervision should be adequately resourced and accessible to all speech pathologists throughout their careers. In an employment relationship it is a duty of an employer to ensure that staff are properly trained and supported to perform their jobs. Where a number of speech pathologists are employed in an organisation it is essential that suitably experienced speech pathologists of at least one level senior to the supervisee will be employed to provide professional supervision and support. Supervision should be clearly documented in the supervising speech pathologist’s position description. In an organisation where there are no experienced speech pathologists available on site to provide clinical and professional supervision, it is the position of the Association that employers should obtain appropriate supervision for their employees on a fee for service basis from experienced practitioners in other agencies or independent practice. This will involve a contract clearly outlining the parameters of the supervision process and the responsibility of both the supervising clinician and the supervisee. An agreed process will be required to address issues that may arise out of the support and supervision relationship. Speech Pathology Australia advocates minimum standards of professional support and clinical supervision for speech pathologists (in Table 1 of the Position Statement), including Newly Graduate Speech Pathologists.
Another option to consider is becoming a mentee in Speech Pathology Australia’s Mentoring Program. This program helps practitioners new to some aspect of their role (mentees) who would like to develop their skills, knowledge and networks, by matching them with a more experienced practitioner (mentor). http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/membership/mentoring-programThe program is a holistic approach to growth in all aspects of work and may involve both professional support (around clinical issues, caseload management, staff issues, administration and time management) and personal support (around ambitions and goals, stress levels and resolution, boosting of confidence and self-esteem).
Jennifer was a new graduate who joined SPA’s Mentoring program - “I was a Speech Pathology Australia member but didn’t think I would be eligible for a mentor as I was working in Hong Kong. Being a new grad I really felt like I needed some support. When I rang the Association I found out that I was eligible for a mentor and they matched me straight away. I have had two phone calls with my mentor but we mostly email each other. Her support and help has been invaluable and has really boosted my confidence.”
I am working in an interdisciplinary team setting and this is new to me. Where can I find information on this?
Speech pathologists work with professionals from a range of allied health and other disciplines. These may include occupational therapists, teachers, nurses, dietitians, etc. A speech pathologist’s role in an interdisciplinary team setting will vary according to the individual work setting.
The ‘Parameters of Practice’ document contains guidelines for delegation, collaboration and teamwork in speech pathology practice. This may assist you in developing an understanding of your role within an interdisciplinary team setting, and information on how roles and input may be shared amongst different professionals. This is available on the SPA website: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/library/Parameters%20of%20Practice%20-%20Reformatted%20Nov%2009.pdf
An interdisciplinary team setting may engage in ‘transdisciplinary practice’. This is where two or more people work together to address the needs of a client and their family. Roles are often expanded across discipline boundaries. Speech Pathology Australia has a Position Statement on Transdisciplinary Practice, including reference to this model of practice and new graduate Speech Pathologists.
Speech Pathologists can learn a lot from working in an interdisciplinary setting, and the benefits of being able to provide a holistic service to clients are high.
SPA encourages graduate speech pathologists to gain at least 3 years of experience before they commence working as a sole private practitioner. This experience may be gained by working for another private practitioner (PP) or in a public setting. If the limited work opportunities in the public sector in your locality restrict you from gaining the necessary experience, and you commence work as a sole private practitioner, you are encouraged to seek support from an experienced clinician. This may be achieved by seeking a mentor through SPA’s mentoring program or by employing an experienced clinician to act as your mentor and supervisor.
There are a number of excellent resources on SPA’s website. The Guide to Establishing a Private Practice poses all of the questions a speech pathologist should consider before setting up a private practice and provides a wealth of useful information to the new PP. http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/library/Private%20Practice%20Resources/Guide_to_Establishing_a_Private_Practice_2004.pdf
In addition to the Guide, a FAQs document for private practitioners has been developed. This document provides information, and access to resources, in response to some of the questions SPA frequently receives from private practitioners. http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/resources/private-practice-resources
Speech Pathology Australia has a number of avenues to assist you in accessing professional development. You may wish to explore the following Professional Development opportunities for Members:
- Attendance at SPA Events including Branch CPD Events held regularly in a wide variety of clinical areas, and also the annual National Conference. A list of upcoming events, with brochures , can be found by going to http://online.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/iMIS_public/Core/Events/Events.aspx
- Viewing the SPA online Autism Independent Study Resources. These self-directed learning packages in the area of Autism available free to view to Members of the Association http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/resources/helping-children-with-autism-package/education-a-resources
- Borrowing items from the CPD Lending Library, with the brochure available at http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/continuing-professional-development-cpd/cpd-lending-library
- Participating in SPA Discussion Boards on a variety of topics, with no charge to members http://forum.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/
- Reading SPA Publications including Speak Out, ACQ and the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/publications/publications-overviewAs an example, there was an ACQ issue on Mental Health- Volume 11, Number 3, 2009 (Includes articles by Walsh, S Adolescent mental health versus child development: A new graduate’s perspective of working within these settings and Perrott, D Burnout in clinicians ACQ 11,3,2009 http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=293&Itemid=174
- Joining one or more of the Member Networks – to view the member networks you can join (at no charge to members) got to http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/member-networks-mn/member-networksAn example of a Member Network is the Rural and Remote MN http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/member-networks-mn/rural-a-remote
- Participating in the Professional Self Regulation (PSR) program leading to Certification – for further information go to http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/membership/professional-self-regulation-psr
- Special Interest Groups are also good resources. (Please note that these are not run by the Association). To find out about Special Interest Groups in your Branch and/or nationally go to http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/resources/special-interests-groups
Maintaining a healthy work life balance is essential in ensuring general wellbeing now that you have been thrust into the full-time working world. Some general tips include:
- Organise your time so you can complete everything you need to do within work time.
- If you need help with time management and prioritisation, think about speaking with your senior colleagues or Mentor.
- Try to take your allocated breaks.
- If you find it difficult to ‘switch off’ from work life, find a ritual that helps you mark the end of the day.
- De-brief about difficult situations within your professional network.
- Be proactive and positive – suggestions include: look to the internal resources within your organisation (eg approach your HR department).
- Maintain hobbies and interests, and try to eat healthily and exercise.
- You may also want to check out the ACQ Issue on Work-life balance: Preserving your Soul - Volume 10, Number 2, 2008.
In looking to work overseas, you need to make contact with the relevant international speech pathology association and/or governing body in the country you are looking to work in as a speech pathologist, as each country has its own requirements.
If you are considering applying via the Mutual Recognition of Professional Association Credentials Agreement (MRA), that has as its signatories ASHA (USA), CASLPA (Canada), IASLT (Ireland), NZSTA (New Zealand), RCSLT (UK) and SPA (Australia), you need to be a current Certified Practising Speech Pathologist with SPA. The Agreement is not one of reciprocity or reciprocal recognition of qualifications. The Agreement is of mutual recognition that, under some conditions, the six associations have substantially equivalent credentials and that it is therefore possible for certified or full members of one association to become recognised by the other associations. The Agreement does not ensure migration to any of the other countries as all conditions for migration have to be met nor does it ensure employment in the country which the speech pathologist may wish to visit. However, it provides the possibility of professional recognition of the speech pathologist by the Associations signatory to the Agreement. It should be remembered that each country and in some cases, states within that country, may have local requirements that also need to be met.
To become a Certified Practising Speech Pathologist, SPA members must have opted in to and then met the requirements of the Professional Self Regulation (PSR) program for a year.
For further information for current Certified Practising Speech Pathology Australia Members please go to http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=533
There are many opportunities for members to contribute to our Association, and volunteers can derive great benefit from becoming involved. The Association has a number of different portfolios, which consist of volunteer leaders and members. The main portfolios are:
- Continuing Professional Development
- Public Affairs
- Scientific Affairs
- Professional Standards
- Practice, Workplace and Government
You can find a description of each of these portfolios and their responsibilities on the website – go to the home page: www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au and then ‘Log in’. A ‘Portfolio menu’ will then appear on the left hand side of the screen.
A summary of ways that you can assist SPA is also located here: http://www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au/membership/get-involved
If you are interested in finding out more about your local branch, you can attend a Branch Executive meeting, which will give you an overview of current issues / activities within each branch, plus assist in developing your understanding of what each portfolio is required to do. Check your Branch webpage for basic information about meeting dates / times / venues, and then contact your local Branch President or Secretary to confirm your attendance at a Branch meeting.
J. - currently in a New Graduate Position at an acute public hospital in Melbourne, Victoria.
The experiences of a new graduate speech pathologist are varied dependant on what caseload you have and what setting you are in. However, whilst collating this FAQ and talking with my former classmates, now colleagues, I learnt that many of the themes and feelings surrounding being a new graduate are similar from paediatric to adult acute caseloads and all those in between.
The learning curve experienced as a new graduate is something that resonates across all new graduates and professionals alike when moving into a new position or phase of their career. It is a terrifying yet exciting jump from calling yourself a student to a Speech Pathologist. I am the first to admit I felt very special having my own pager and team of professionals to be a part of. To think that in many cases I am seen as the expert was a huge pat on the back after 4 long years of study! In addition, the awareness of good work/life balance and being mindful of when you need support and when you can challenge yourself is a common story amongst new graduates.
My experience as a new graduate working in the adult acute hospital setting has been challenging and inspiring. On a daily basis I am faced with a variety of patients with a variety of presentations and heath backgrounds. My main caseload is of a general medical nature which means that the patients usually have complex medical and health care backgrounds. The age range is mostly elderly and very elderly, however I am also involved with other patients across the hospital from time to time dependant on the department workload! I have learnt very quickly that your time at university can never completely prepare you for the raw emotion of palliative care or the team work required in delivering acute healthcare to the community. I am also required to have a good understanding of the impact many health conditions can have on communication and swallowing. This position has certainly provided me with an excellent foundation in how healthcare is delivered across the community.
I am extremely lucky to have fantastic support from my seniors and the department as a whole. I addition, I am fortunate to be in a rotational position which will allow me to work for 6 months in the subacute/rehabilitation setting after my time in acute. Also, the team of professionals in which I work with on the general medical unit are a great source of information and a great sounding board when you need a different perspective or a laugh! I am also encouraged to complete quality projects and follow interesting patients throughout their hospital stay to further develop my skills and experiences. Most of all this gives me added job satisfaction.
I feel that I have challenged myself and also recognised when I was at my skill or knowledge limits. At the end of the day you have to accept that no one knows it all and that all you can do is try your best and continue to learn, seek and find.
K. - working in paediatric services in rural South Australia.
I work within a consultative model in accordance with state-wide guidelines; my duties are largely based around providing advice and guidance for parents and education staff for issues relating to speech, language and communication.
Being in a rural area it is difficult to attract Speech Pathologists; my role had been vacant for twelve months prior to the advertisement which I have now filled. I have 19 schools and kindergartens on my caseload which extend as far as 250kms from our office, 500kms round trip. This is one of the challenges of this job- large amounts of time are spent travelling, yet there is still the higher expectation that I will see as many children as my colleagues who work in the inner city. Due to many sites (particularly primary schools) not being serviced for up to two years, it is often difficult to play the catch-up game.
The opportunities for professional development are limited in country areas; in budgeting, travel is not necessarily considered and can limit opportunity for quality PD.
The staff with whom I work (Speech Pathologists, managers and others within our Multi-d team) are all extremely supportive and appreciate the adjustments (both personal and professional) of entering the workforce and becoming familiar with, and competent within a new job.
Working within a Multi-D team provides opportunity to view clients holistically and assists in implementing meaningful programs. I have the chance to do hands on therapy even though we work within a consultative framework, particularly in the stage of ‘what will work for this child?’. There are many opportunities for providing Professional development to educational staff within our region and also to assist sites in planning their programs to include and meet the needs of children with communication difficulties.
Wellbeing is a high priority within our region, particularly pertaining to travel.
M. - working fulltime as a locum Speech Pathologist in several different schools.
My company hires me out to schools and networks that need someone to cover a position for a few weeks or terms.
Some of the challenges with being a locum are that you don’t have an office and are often required to work out of some strange spaces. Also you don’t know anyone so it can be awkward in some of the staff rooms but the kids make it all worthwhile. Just make sure you have a “Guess Who?” game, a “Pop up Pirate” and lots of stickers. Being organised and flexible is the key to success.
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