What You Should Know Before Shadowing a Speech-Language Pathologist

shadowing an slp

Over the years I’ve shadowed at many different places. In order to start graduate school for speech pathology, you need at least 25 observation hours (I’m sure your professors or program directors have already told you this). Shadowing can be scary, I’ll totally admit it. You want to be sure you make a good impression and you know you’re representing not only yourself, but your undergraduate program as well. I’ve learned quite a few things about how to handle these observation/shadowing sessions (mostly through my own experiences and the experiences of my friends) so I figured I should share them all here in a blog post!

As always, feel free to email me with questions or leave a comment down below.

But wait… how do I find SLPs to shadow?

Good question. Your clinic director, professors, and program directors probably have some connections. Ask them. When in doubt, try Google. Call and email places that look interesting to you. Always ASK if they allow student observers, never assume!

Places you can contact to shadow:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Easter Seals
  • Private practice
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities

Wear appropriate attire.

No jeans or loose/poor fitting clothes. You might possibly have to move around and/or sit on the floor, bend over, etc. Think about how your clothes are moving with you! Closed toe shoes are required at most facilities. Wear a cardigan if your top leaves your shoulders exposed.

Take notes/don’t use your phone.

Take notes when you can! You’re getting a one-of-a-kind experience… document it! Write down questions and observations as you watch the session and talk to the SLP about it afterwards. You get so much more out of the sessions if you actually engage the SLP in conversation. Also, don’t use your phone. This should go without saying.

Bring questions!

Chances are, the only other SLPs you’ve been exposed to have been your teachers. I’m sure you have lots of questions stockpiled up in your head. You might want to use this opportunity to ask the SLP about her career choice! What does she like about being an SLP? What does she like or dislike about the current population she’s working with? What advice does she have for you/what is something she wishes she knew when she was an undergrad? What other settings has she worked in and with what populations? One of the coolest things about speech pathology is that you’re not locked into one setting or one client population forever. Find out how the clinician got to where she is today!

Stay a silent observer.

This was something I had to learn through experience. Oftentimes I was so excited to be there I really wanted to get in on the action. You have to remember that the session’s goal is to get the client to work on their own speech/language/communication. Unless you’re invited to participate by the clinician, keep your lips sealed!

Always, always, always bring your clearances.

Even if they don’t explicitly ask for them, make sure you have them! Your clearances will include:

  • Your state’s Child Abuse History Certificate
  • Your state’s Criminal History Record
  • FBI Criminal History Record (FBI Fingerprinting)

Make a few copies and keep them in your observation folder!

Shadow at different places.

This might be an unpopular opinion, but I really think using this time to see many different settings and client populations is beneficial. I went into grad school seeing many sessions in the university clinic, but I also observed in a school, a private practice, and an outpatient rehab center. Get out of your comfort zone! Find a new place and a new population to observe, you never know what you might like! In grad school, you’re going to be exposed to almost everything. Might as well get used to it now!

Always remember who you’re representing.

You’re representing yourself, your school, your professors, and really the entire SLP student population. Always be professional and do your best!

  • Nishita

    These are very useful tips while shadowing anyone to improve your skills.

  • Rachel Ritlop

    I loveee this! We always have to be conscious of the etiquette when we job shadow- especially when it comes to something like speech therapy!

  • Kyla Matton Osborne

    I’m sure with your positive and professional attitude, you’re making wonderful impressions on the SLPs you are shadowing. And I quite agree with you about observing different therapists at different facilities. Every institution has its own feel and approach and, as you mentioned, a unique clientele. If you want to get a sense of all the possibilities for your future career, it’s important to put yourself out there and try a lot of different experiences.

    • Thank you so much Kyla! Yes, it’s so important to try everything especially when you’re just starting out.

  • Job shadowing can be SO intimidating. These tips are great!

  • Miss ALK

    What helpful tips for someone pursuing the field!! I think job shadowing is important in whatever career you want to pursue! :) I did some in college and found it very beneficial.

    xoxo A

    • I recommend job shadowing to anyone doing anything! I shadowed for the first time in high school when I was trying to figure out if SLP was the right career path for me. I’m so glad I did it!

  • These are such helpful tips!!! Thanks for sharing these.

  • mckenna bleu

    Such wonderful tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • This is really interesting! My nephew had to go to a speech pathologist before and I never thought about what was involved. These are really great tips for anyone who is pursuing a career in the medical field. I always found shadowing awkward!

  • Great tips! Look professional is always important.

  • Casey Cody Flournoy

    Great tips! You’re right, it is important to observe so you get the most out of the experience.

  • I think these are great tips for shadowing any position! I especially think the questions and the keeping notes is important.

  • Courtney Drew

    Great advice!! I think that these are greats tips when shadowing any position!! Getting the most of of these experiences is key!

    xo Courtney Drew

  • Such a great guide! I had a shadowing student that did nothing but stay on her phone. #NotCool.

  • jillconyers

    This post was SO interesting. I never knew much about this career field so it was really intriguing to read about it from this perspective! Thanks.

  • Anna Hubbard

    This is filled with so many great tips! I agree that getting a variety of experiences can help, no matter what field you’re going into!

  • My grandmother had a stroke 2.5 years ago and it was so important to have a speech pathologist come and help her. I was staying with her to help out when my grandaddy had to go to work, so I actually was able to “shadow” her therapy sessions”. I think I did fine overall, but I wish I had had this list then, just to double check!

  • One of my best friends is a speech pathologist so this is fascinating – y’all have had similar journeys!

  • Oh interesting – I have a few speech path friends and never knew any of this!

  • bwells7

    Hey! This is a more specific question but I thought I’d check and see if you know the answer. I am currently living in Spain but I hope to go to grad school for SLP in the near future. Do you know if shadowing an SLP at a public school internationally would count toward the required observation hours? I would love to get started on them while I am here, and I want to do a bilingual SLP certificate program so I would think it would look good to have experience with SLPs in Spanish. Just thought I’d get your thoughts on that! :)