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SLP Careers: Transitioning From Schools to Hospitals

Written by Gary Adams, M.A. CCC-SLP, Published on September 7, 2017

One of the best things about being a speech language pathologist is the diversity of career settings available to us. With so many career options available, it's no wonder that so many SLPs seek experience in a number of settings throughout their careers.

A common topic among my colleagues is the transition into a medical setting. Whether supplementing a school-based job with medically-based work or making a full transition, SLPs are commonly faced with two obstacles.

Before we start, a little about me.

I started my career in the school system. Over the summer, I decided to look for a position in a private practice or rehab setting. Frustratingly, I found that it was nearly impossible to get started any of those settings without prior experience.

Eventually, I made my way into private practice then picked up a PRN position at HealthSouth. In my PRN position, I was given a full orientation to systems and procedures in a healthcare setting.

If you’re looking to transition from a school to medical setting, here are the two significant obstacles that we face and how to overcome them.

1. SLPs without prior medical experience find themselves screened out of hospital job openings.

Here's the thing - you do have relevant experience! You need to give yourself credit and express that experience on your resume. Does your school district use computers for IEP paperwork? That's a medically-relevant skill known as "electronic therapy documentation."

Plus, think about all of your systems, intervention approaches, and assessments that carry-over to different populations.

Here's an example: divergent naming tasks work on both 9 and 90-year-olds! If you feel competent with those tools, make sure that you express that during the application process.

CEUs are a great opportunity to steer your career in the direction that you want it to go. If you're serious about transitioning into a medical setting, obtain medically-relevant CEUs.

Be sure to list dysphagia and cognitive competencies appropriately within your application. Those keywords (and more) will help your resume end up in front of the right people.

2. There are no good medically-based hospital jobs in the right location.

Many medical settings have PRN or "pool" opportunities. These positions aren't full time BUT often lead to full-time opportunities. Not all pool jobs are listed online.
Get out there & talk with the Director of Rehabilitation at your favorite hospital. Take them to lunch.

You'll be the first person that they think of when hiring.

Some PRN opportunities will give you the orientation courses that you need to get started. That’s how I made my successful transition. I started my career in the school system. Over the summer, I decided to look for a position in a private practice or rehab setting.

Frustratingly, I found that it was nearly impossible to get started any of those settings. I made my way into private practice then picked up a PRN position at HealthSouth Rehabilitation. I was given a full week of orientation to their health record systems and comprehensive (paid!) training.

That was just the foot in the door that I needed.

One final thought

If you're passionate about transitioning to a medical setting, some critical factors are within your control. Get the right continuing education, update your resume to reflect medically-relevant skills, and develop professional relationships with decision-makers in medical settings.

Enjoy the diversity of settings, skill sets, and people on your journey in the field of speech language pathology.

Topics:CareersChildrenhospitalsmedicalmedically-basedpediatricsschoolsSLPSLPsspeech

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