Continuing with the theme of FIRSTS to commemorate RCSLT’s 75th anniversary I’ve decided to blog about a selection of my favourite firsts. I’ve chosen to write about five of my favourites simply because I love alliteration (and I’m sure 5 Firsts will keep your attention more than 50 firsts!).
I always enjoy time to reflect and I appreciate being part of a profession where this is regularly part of our work. In order to continue to grow and develop as a Speech and Language Therapist I reflect about my clinical work often. I enjoyed this slight distraction to think and reflect on some of the favourite firsts of my career to date (which including my student years now spans over a decade!)
I studied at Newcastle University, and our first student placements were at the in-house clinics on campus. The first of these was at the literacy clinic where I worked with another student on a peer placement to provide therapy to a boy with literacy difficulties. I remember spending most of the placement terrified that I was going to do something wrong. I enjoyed working with the child and thinking of new games to play each week to keep him interested. This placement taught me lots of practical skills about working with children and I quickly developed an understanding that even with the best session plans, some activities just don’t always go as expected! That was a great lesson to be able to develop quick thinking skills to modify activities as needed during the session. This is something I regularly do now without thinking about it, but I remember it being a steep and stressful learning curve!
I graduated in 2011 when the job market was poor and there were many more graduates than jobs available. I was keen to stay in North East England, so I knew that I was limiting my options, but I applied for jobs in a range of clinical areas (including those which were not my first choice). I had several interviews before I was successful in securing a job, but I used each one as a learning experience to help me to prepare for the next one. After a couple of years and a few temporary positions I broadened my geographical search to Yorkshire. I secured an interview for a post in Leeds and although this wasn’t my first interview it was one of the first job adverts that really excited me. The train didn’t leave Newcastle due to a fault on the line and I ended up ringing the SLT department to tell them. They agreed to interview me later in the day and I drove down to Leeds. Despite the stressful start to the day, the interview panel were lovely (even offering me a cup of tea!) and I remember genuinely enjoying being interviewed and showing them who I am and why they would want to choose me for their team. It was the first time that I left an interview and felt like I’d done the best I could do. The next day I received a phone call offering me the job and I worked in Leeds for almost 2 years (before returning to the North East). I met some incredible therapists and made some friends for life (one of which was one of the lovely members of the interview panel!)
I consider both of my first 2 speech and language therapy jobs as first jobs as they were both different roles. My first role was as a Speech and Language Therapy Research Assistant with Newcastle University and Northumbria Healthcare. I carried out lots of assessments with reception aged children all over Northumberland. It was a temporary position and I really enjoyed it. I developed a range of skills around working with children, working to deadlines and as part of a team. It was a great foundation for the first job I secured as a Speech and Language Therapist. This too was a temporary position to help the department clear therapy waiting lists. I was part of a community paediatric team in County Durham and enjoyed delivering a wide range of therapy with school aged children and delivering an early language development group with a senior colleague for 2-year olds.
Both roles made me certain that I wanted to pursue the direction of working with children which I still thoroughly enjoy now.
First proud moment
I am extremely lucky that I have had many moments to be proud of in my career to date. One of the earliest that sticks in my mind is during the time I was working in County Durham. I did a block of weekly therapy with a child who was unable to make the /f/ sound in the first session and by the end session he could use it in short phrases and sentences. The sessions took place in school and his mum attended too and during the last session she told me she could really see the impact of the sessions. I can still remember how it felt hearing the little boy use the /f/ sound spontaneously and being proud that I had made that happen. There were several children who made great progress during a short block of therapy during my time in that role and I remember feeling proud and excited about the positive impact Speech and Language Therapy has.
As this post is to celebrate RCSLT’s 75th Anniversary I thought I’d share some of my first experiences of my professional body. I’ve been a proud member of RCSLT since I was in my first year at university in 2007.
During my final year of study someone from RCSLT visited us to talk about the benefits of joining RCSLT. They also told us about the Giving Voice campaign which had just launched the autumn earlier. Later that year we were visited again so that we could learn more about Giving Voice and to receive training to become local campaign champions. This training was also for local therapists and it was my first opportunity to get involved with RCSLT. As a local team we got involved in lots of activities to raise awareness of Speech and Language Therapy and I also wrote to my local MP and met him to discuss the impact of SLT.
RCSLT taught me a lot about the importance of grass roots campaigning and supported me prior to meeting my MP. I am still in touch with my local MP (Ian Lavery) who has continued to be supportive of Speech and Language Therapy (attending many of our events, including local and national RCSLT Voice Box joke competition). When I lived in Leeds, I also met with the local MP there (Richard Burgon) who judged our Leeds final of Voice Box (and one of the children went on to win the national final!)
I actively blogged about all my Giving Voice campaigning, local events, awards and Voice Box and you can read more here.
I am passionate about Speech and Language Therapy and the life changing work that we do. I have enjoyed learning from and liaising with RCSLT to share this message as widely as possible and look forward to continuing to celebrate their birthday this year.