Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alumni Spotlight: Kristin Reisch, MA, CCC-SLP, Class of 2007

(full article)

1. Where do you work, and how long have you been there?
I work at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital (PIH). I completed my externship at PIH and was then hired on as a full-time SLP. I began working as an employee in July 2007. I received my CCC’s last month!

2. Where did you work during your CFY? What is/was like, and how much support (from supervisors, fellow alumni, former professors, etc.) did you receive throughout that time?
I completed my CFY at PIH. It was a challenging experience. Going from being a student to the professional provided some new stresses in my life. Even though I always felt responsible as a student for the decisions I made, the ultimate responsibility lay with my extern supervisor. As a CFY (and now SLP with my C’s) the sense of responsibility for decisions made and their impact on patients was stressful.

3. What is a typical day for you?
Typical? What’s that? In the hospital setting we don’t really have typical days. I work in all areas of the hospital (critical care, intermediate care, acute care, transitional care, acute rehab, and outpatient) and on any given day I may see a patient from each area. The priority of each day is always new evaluations, followed by patients who are NPO, followed by patients on restricted diets, and then patients on less modified diets, with the speech-language/voice patients mixed in. If I have an outpatient he/she will take priority during their appointment time and then I will be back to in-patient care.

One of the benefits of working in a large hospital is the great diversity experienced almost every day with both population and disorder. One of the challenges is not really getting the opportunity to specialize and become an expert in one area.

4. What are the pros and cons about your job?
· Educating patients and family re: their impairments; their prognosis, their plan of care, etc.
· Diversity in caseload, e.g., aphasia, dysphagia, apraxia, TBI, RHD, etc. In the hospital I get to see a wide variety of disorders most days.
· Good benefits/pay
· 4 day work week (10 hour days; the days are long but I have an extra day off during the week)
· For the most part the SLP’s at my hospital are well respected by the physicians, nurses, and other staff
· Patients and family who really appreciate the efforts we make to help them improve!
· Working weekends and holidays
· Schedule changes throughout the day – so I might start with two evaluations and five therapy sessions, but if new evaluations come in or the patient I want to see is with PT or out for an MRI, etc. the therapy gets bumped – so it is hard to plan the day into a set schedule. (This is typical of acute care, so just comes with the territory.)

5. How long did it take you to feel comfortable/confident with your work?
I have been working at the hospital for about 11 months and am just starting to feel pretty confident. Although to be honest, I still have days or sessions when I feel like I am still a complete beginner. But I can say, after about a year, it does get better!

However, one thing you must always do in any setting is project confidence, regardless of how you feel! Our patients and their family members look to us as the experts and we must present ourselves as such. This does not mean to make stuff up when we don’t know, but to give the best information we have (and we really know more than we might think at first) and then go back with additional information as needed. If we don’t look confident our patients and family members will doubt our skills and expertise and be much less likely to follow through on our recommendations. So always, always, always project confidence!!

6. What is the most memorable moment of your career so far?
The day a former in-patient’s daughter called to thank me for always introducing myself to her dad and for always explaining why I was there. She was so genuinely appreciative of all I had done to help her dad go from NPO to oral gratification.

I treated him for probably about two weeks and each time I would introduce myself to him and his family. I just make this as a habit for each patient and sometimes think they must think I am wacky because I always re-introduce myself. However, patients are exposed to so many therapists, nurses, doctors, etc. in just one day we cannot expect them to remember us. In addition to telling him and the family who I was I always told them why I was there (e.g., “to work on your swallow,” or “to see how you are doing with eating,” etc.).

This daughter’s phone call helped me to know I was doing the right thing in constantly re-orienting the patient to his therapist and the purpose of my visit. Now I never doubt the need to tell them why I am there.

7. What do you wish you learned in grad school before hitting the real world?
I think ultimately I was as prepared as I could be. However, one thing to realize is that in grad school we typically learn all about textbook cases and theory. In the real world, people and their disorders rarely fall neatly into one specific category (e.g., only Wernicke’s Aphasia), but often have components of several impairments. Somehow this surprised me. Real people are much “messier” than the people in the books, be prepared to have to really mix your knowledge base up and blend!

8. Do you have any advice for the COMD students of CSULA (e.g., things to focus on, clinic advice, praxis tips, shout outs, etc.)?
· Buy a good penlight! I am not kidding, spend the $20.00 and get one with batteries that is well made and bright! It is well worth it and far, far, far superior to the cheapie free ones you collect from conventions, etc.
· Use the blue book and the accompanying CD for the Praxis; consider buying a 30 day (or so) subscription to : http://www.nespaexam.com/index.shtml (I really think this helped me), do not study the night before instead eat a healthy and yummy dinner, go to bed early, get to the test sight a little early (not too early!), and relax! You will find you are more prepared than you thought! After it is over, go out to lunch to celebrate!
· Remember grad school is only for two years, your career will be many, many years. You can do it! Team up with your classmates to study and relax together (our class started knitting together!). You are all in this together! Make the most of it!