Thanks for joining us for our podcast series, talking about speech-language pathology graduate school. Join Robert Serianni, MS, CCC-SLP, FNAP, the chair and program director of the department of Speech-Language Pathology at Salus University, in part one of this podcast Q&A as he speaks with an externship supervisor and the student, now an alum, that she's worked with.
 
Rebecca Ritsick:
Hello everyone, my name is Rebecca Ritsick and I am a new graduate as of May 2021. I am from Forty Fort, Pennsylvania and went to Westchester University for my undergrad. I think one of the big things that drew me to Salus was that it was in the greater Philadelphia area. I really liked everything that Philly has to offer, whether it be locations for externships or just kind of having networking opportunities.

Bob Serianni:
So you finished your externship, you finished the program. Congratulations! Thinking about that first year that you had on campus with our clinic and the courses, how did that prepare you for eventually moving into your externship?

Rebecca RitsickRebecca Ritsick:
I think it was really helpful to have clinic immediately jumping in, right from the start. In terms of moving into the externship, our dysphagia course gave me a good foundational knowledge to kind of have an idea of what I was getting into. And then having those in-person labs, where we got to go into the city, go into the hospitals and see what a FEES was like, see what a modified barium swallow study was like and feel more of that hospital atmosphere, was also a really good hands-on experience that gave me a better idea of what to expect going into externships.

Bob Serianni:
One of the things the program really strives to do is to make sure that students have the classroom work, have the clinical exposures, both in lab and in clinic to prepare them. I'm sure you're quite aware that we can only go so far, and hopefully the stress and anxiety of getting you into externship converts very quickly into motivation to learn more and really get the hands-on experiences in authentic sites like the externship you had, which allows me to sort of turn the tables and introduce you to Joanna.

Joanna Smith:
Hello, my name is Joanna Smith. I'm a speech pathologist and I've been practicing since 2014, so about seven years now. I work right now at Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, and I work with adults in acute care, but also outpatient as well. I specialize in voice and swallowing disorders, and I have particular interests in the head and neck cancer population, total laryngectomies, voice and swallowing changes that come with progressive diseases, specifically Parkinson’s, and also transgender voice affirmation therapy.

Bob Serianni:
Tell us what it was like for you as an externship student.

Joanna Smith:
It was a great experience, but stressful, as I'm sure I think it is for every student. At my program actually, it's interesting to hear you talk about the benefits of starting clinic the same time as your coursework, because in my graduate school we did not have that, and I wish that we did. We had about a year and a half of coursework, even before I did any sort of on campus clinic or externship. And there was definitely a sense of, oh, I feel like I have to kind of go back and relearn this. It kind of felt like you had to learn things twice. In retrospect, I think any program that's offering those two aspects of the experience simultaneously is definitely a plus. Another part of my program that kind of felt like a little bit of an uphill battle was that it was a very pediatric heavy program specifically.
 
I knew pretty early on just from kind of having shadowing experiences that adults were definitely something that I wanted to focus on. And I knew that voice and swallowing was something that I wanted to focus on. I remember having to be very proactive and networking to kind of establish relationships within the community to get exposure to those places so that it became more likely that I'd be a more viable candidate for the placements when I got to that point in grad school, which was a little bit stressful.
 
It would've been nice to kind of have more exposure in that, but I made it work. One difference would kind of be of the supervisory experience, was a little bit different than what I'm trying to mimic now. I remember my supervisors very much being like, kind of, the grade is the most important and for you to get a good grade you kind of have to be my mini me. And I feel like it's kind of changed now where we're kind of encouraging a more individualized skillset in students, which I think is really exciting to see.

Bob Serianni:
One thing that has impressed me with you, with other supervisors from Cooper and around the area, quite frankly, is their ability to sort of read their students and meet them where they are, and then pull them along versus sort of an old fashioned, this is where you need to be and drawing a line and then asking them to sort of climb to it on their own recourse. And I think that education has really changed over the last few years to be more, as you say, individualized, so that we know what the students' experiences are, what their strengths and challenges are, and then pull them along.