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:
- 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.
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!