Join Robert Serianni, MS, CCC-SLP, FNAP, the chair and program director of the department of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) at Salus University, as he moderates part one of the Meet Your Clinical Educators podcast. He is joined by three of our clinical educators who supervise students in the Speech Language Institute (SLI): Shelley Slott, MS, CCC-SLP, Alison Finkelstein, MA, CCC-SLP and Emily Jett, MA, CCC-SLP.

Slott: My area of expertise is that I work with adult clients. I've been in the field for more years than I care to tell. And I look forward to meeting all of the new students who come to Salus University.

Finkelstein: I've been with Salus and the Speech-Language Institute since its inception in 2015 with the first graduate class that entered the program. My expertise is with adults with neurogenic disorders and love my job.

Jett: I just started at the Speech-Language Institute, so this is my first semester as a clinical educator here. I specialize in pediatrics and I also work part-time at an outpatient center as a speech therapist. I think this semester I've really been able to marry both positions nicely.

SLI clinical educatorsSerianni: This podcast is geared toward students who are finishing up their undergraduate programs and moving into a graduate program. So, let's harken back to the day when you went to graduate school. Tell me where you received your degrees from and where was your first job after graduation?

Jett: I went to undergrad and graduate school for speech pathology at Temple University. I finished graduate school in 2013, so I've been out in the field for almost 10 years now. I did my fellowship at Archway Programs in South Jersey, which is a school for kids with special needs.

Slott: I went to Westchester University for undergrad. I sort of came to speech circuitously because I needed a minor. I was an elementary education major and I chose speech because it just sounded interesting. I had no idea what it was all about. I really enjoyed all those classes. I student taught and said, nope. Then I went and got my master's degree at Ithaca College and I actually started with pediatrics. I started in the Philadelphia school district and then I started doing some per diem work with adults and I never looked back. I really love the adult population. And when I started, a lot of these patients were born in the late 1800s. It was amazing, the history, the people were just fascinating. 

Finkelstein: I went for undergraduate and graduate to the University of Maryland and began my career in Baltimore, Maryland, at Sinai Hospital. That hospital was one of the first hospitals that had also — in addition to the acute care — a 30-bed rehabilitation unit. I led the team there seeing all types of adult communication disorders and swallowing disorders. Back then we were just starting to treat swallowing disorders, bedside and instrumentally, but my clinical fellowship year (CFY) supervisor had a lot of experience. So I felt like it was a really good placement. And then I moved to Pennsylvania 33 years ago and worked in a variety of rehab settings, including Moss Rehab and Bryn Mawr Rehab before going back to my first love, which is acute care, at Jeanes Hospital for around 19 years.

Serianni: Let's focus on the here and now. Tell us a little bit about the types of clients and some of the services that you provide at the clinic. 

Finkelstein: Given the backgrounds on all of us, I think we've all supervised graduate students prior to coming into this setting. So it's been really nice, it's developed a love for seeing graduate students take on their first clients and then watching their clinical growth as they become more confident and develop these therapeutic relationships with the clients. That's been really rewarding, but probably my favorite types of clients to see are those with aphasia. And I also have some expertise with Parkinson's clients. So those are the types of clients that I supervise our students with. I also run the Aphasia Support Group, which is a love near and dear to my heart and helped start the LOUD Crowd with the Parkinson's group. So there's a lot of overlap between individual therapy, group treatment, group support.

Jett: I am supervising students with some pediatric cases at SLI right now. Really the whole gamut of ages, birth to 21, with articulation or language needs. We have a couple who are the toddler preschool age working on just starting out, expressing themselves, early language. And then we have some older kids right now under my caseload with autism or special needs working on some higher level language or articulation needs.

Slott: I have a really a wide range of different clients. I work with aphasia clients, I have many with significant apraxia which is the result of a stroke. I also work with the traumatic brain injury and I lead a weekly traumatic brain injury group where we do support, but we also do therapy. And I've been doing that for about three or four years now. This semester, I have stutters and voice. I do a little bit of everything, which is a lot of fun because I get to see all kinds of different people and disorders. It keeps me growing, because I'm constantly learning and trying to stay one step ahead of the students.

FEES technology at SalusMy actual passion out in the field when I work is really dysphasia. I work with a lot of head and neck cancer patients as well with swallowing problems. So, I look forward to some of the new, innovative things that are going to be going on at the SLI now with fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) and swallowing patients. I think this going to be a really nice addition to our program.

Serianni: The three of you are really awesome examples of the philosophy of the clinic, that we pair the clients with the clinicians that have the experience in those areas. And some supervisors really find a niche and work in those specialty areas, while some supervisors stay generalist and have their hands in lots of different pots. 

I want to wrap up with a little bit of advice for our students. Thinking about sitting on this side of the desk in graduate school, what do you think might be one thing that you want an aspiring graduate student to know about graduate school before they get here? 

Slott: I think I would tell them to take a deep breath. Really, just keep an open mind. What I've found is a lot of students come in saying, ‘Oh, I want to work with pediatrics,' and then they have their first adult client and they're like, ‘Oh, I really love this.’ There's just such a variety of populations and services that we work in. I just think having an open mind is a real good place to start.

Finkelstein: I echo Shelley on that. Dedicate yourself 100 percent once you step onto that campus and into that clinic, because your hard work will be so worth it. You're going to feel overwhelmed. And as Shelly said, take those meditative, mindful breaths. But you're going to develop skills and you're going be so proud of yourself. It's a tremendous accomplishment. And most of all, we're here to support you. You're going to be successful just because we're here to make that happen for you. If you show that 100 percent dedication, we'll give you 100 percent support.

Jett: Some great mentors told me, fake it till you make it. I feel like starting out, you're going to be nervous. You're not going to want to jump in there, but just know that the supervisors and the staff here are there to support you. You're not doing it alone, but take that risk. You are the expert in the field compared to the clients and the families, so you'll know more than you think you know, and the things that you don't know, we'll be there to guide you through.