How to Be a Successful Speech-Language Pathologist in 5 Steps

Where:  ASHA Connect

I just returned from ASHA Connect 2017 in New Orleans, and I am floored.  I now know the secret of how to be a successful speech-language pathologist.  So, here’s what happened.  I, along with 5 fellow SLPs, were given the task of sharing a “big message” to the attendees at the closing IGNITE session.  This is what we had to do, and I was excited.  Then, we were told how it was going to happen.  We were given exactly 5 minutes and 20 slides.  The catch?  The slides would automatically advance every 15 seconds.  At this point in time, I became nauseated.  Alas, I always like a challenge, and this sounded fun.  Just call me Phun-Phuong.

Who:  Six SLPs

I got to go first (thank goodness), and I spoke about the foundation of our profession–making connections with our students, clients and families.  And, the way to connect with others is through stories.  So, I completed my task, and I sat down.  It was time to listen to my fellow IGNITE speakers.  I’ll be honest.   I was intimidated.  Those who spoke after me all had something that I did not.  They all had their doctoral degrees, and I quit my doctoral program after a brief six months 15 years ago.  So, I listened closely.  These brains were going to share their brilliance, and I was going to take note.  Oh, they were outstanding.

Barbara Ehren, EdD, CCC-SLP
Professor, Director of the Doctoral Program
University of Central Florida

Sandra Gillam, PhD, CCC-SLP
Utah State University

Ann Kummer, PhD, CCC-SLP
Senior Director and Professor
Cincinnati Children’s and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Gregory Lof, PhD, CCC-SLP
Dept. Chair and Professor
MGH Institute of Health Professions

Tommie Robinson, Jr., PhD, CCC-SLP
Chief, Division of Hearing and Speech
Children’s National Health System

What:  How to Be a Successful SLP in 5 steps

Here’s the thing, y’all.  The takeaway messages had nothing to do with the speech, language, fluency, voice or dysphagia.  Here is the general consensus from some really great thinkers in our field on how to be a successful SLP:

  1.  Lead with your heart and lead with compassion.

  2. Believe in yourself and your efforts.

  3. Connect with others through stories.

  4. Be nice.

  5. Have fun, fun, fun.

successful speech-language pathologist The final session concluded, and it was time to go back home to Texas.  As I waited for my flight, I reflected.  You see, all of the speakers chose to speak about the human component of our field.   We need to see the heart-value of our peers, students and clients first.  Then, we get to some great speech-language pathology.  So, you ask, how can I become a successful speech-language pathologist?  The answer?  Dear friends, you already are.


Written by: phuonglienpalafox

6 Comments on “How to Be a Successful Speech-Language Pathologist in 5 Steps”

  1. July 13, 2017 at 7:06 pm #

    Great advice! Good for the people we serve and good for our SLP souls.

    • August 15, 2017 at 10:40 am #

      Here’s to all the SLP souls out there. May you continue your meaningful work, find joy in your professional endeavors and (always, always, always) honor your efforts.

  2. July 14, 2017 at 7:16 am #

    Asha connect was wonderful, and though much was impactful from these ignite talks, it was your beautiful, powerfully presented, leading with compassion ignite talk that spoke to me most. So wish I had recorded it show my teeenaged daughter! Thank you for sharing your story.

    • August 15, 2017 at 10:24 am #

      Maureen, thank you so much for your kind words. I am going to put your message in my “Feel Good File.” On my way home from New Orleans, I was feeling overwhelmed by the experience–being able to share my family’s story with my fellow SLPs brought together SO many important chunks of my heart-matters. Someone suggested that I do it again in the future and record it. Once I recover from the oh-so-exciting experience, I may do this. I promise to send you a copy, dear. Here’s to stories.

  3. July 14, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    At first it’s about doing it “right” for the good grade in clinic, then about getting the job and doing it “right” for the system, then about career advancement, then … At each level the door that was already open can open and let the air in a bit more, or can slowly shut and encase us in a four-square(usually) box. Most of us go for that deep refreshing breath. That’s why we we choose the career in the first place, isn’t it?

    • August 15, 2017 at 10:30 am #

      Helen, you’re right. Oftentimes, there is an overwhelming need to do it the right way–using evidence-based practices, taking data, meeting deadlines. And, in due time, we realize that our idea of “right” is so much bigger and more vast than we initially thought. Doing it the right way means upholding the values of honoring our fellow humans–leading with compassion, honoring different backgrounds and unfamiliar experiences, bringing in the joy. So, here’s to your brilliant sentiments, Helen. Let’s all take a deep breath, dear SLPs.

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