BSc Speech and Language Therapy student Natasha Wetton reveals what it’s like to go on a placement as part of the course.
If my last post has inspired you to become a speech and language therapist (SLT), you’ll need to complete a three or four-year undergraduate degree or a two-year postgraduate degree and register with the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists (RCSLT) and the Health and Care Professions Council.
As part of your degree, you have to do a placement every year. This involves spending time with a speech and language therapy service within your local region.
Alongside observing different SLTs, and the work they do with their client group, you get the chance to do case histories, carry out assessments and plan and deliver therapy with different clients.
At first, this can seem quite overwhelming, and you wonder how on earth you will ever be good enough, but in time your confidence grows, and it’s brilliant being able to put the theory you’ve learnt into practice and use it to help people.
Likewise, spending time with the client group – essentially the people you could be helping one day – makes everything feel so worthwhile.
My placement experience
I’m currently in the third year of my degree, and a couple of weeks into my six-week block placement working with adults who have had a stroke. I commute to Burnley and Blackburn four days a week, where I work with stroke patients at a general hospital and at a community hospital.
Before starting my placement, I was very nervous and regularly felt overwhelmed at the mere thought of it; however, since starting the placement, I have quickly found myself settling into the team and thoroughly enjoying every day.
I love being able to apply all the many things I’ve learnt over the last couple of years, and having more independence and responsibility. My current placement has made me realise that I know a lot more than I give myself credit for, and it has also helped me have more confidence in myself and my abilities too.
Likewise, it has made my daily tea and biscuit intake rise rather considerably too, but that’s another matter entirely!
My daily routine
My daily routine on placement involves waking up early and commuting to the hospital where I will be based for the day. When I arrive, I go through my notes or catch-up on some work, and then the SLT and I will go through our clients for the day.
This involves going through their case histories and the previous work that has been done with them, or seeing which new clients have been referred and will need a case history taking, as well as an initial assessment.
I am in the community two days a week, meaning we drive out to clients’ homes to do assessments or therapy sessions with them there.
I’m on an acute stroke unit one day a week, and we see to people who have had a stroke within the last 24 hours or so, checking their swallowing and communication abilities so we can determine what has been damaged by the stroke.
On my other day, I’m on an inpatient stroke ward, where we see to the communication and swallowing needs of patients who have been discharged from the acute stroke unit, but are still too unwell to go straight home.
Our day includes taking case histories, carrying our assessments, talking to clients, planning and carrying out therapy sessions, writing reflections on the things we’ve done and doing case notes.
Hard work – but worth the effort
Placement is busy, full on and long, and no two days are ever the same. That being said, it is such an amazing learning opportunity, and you grow and change so much throughout it.
With every passing day, you learn so many new things, gain so many new experiences, meet so many wonderful people, and little by little you get closer and closer to that end goal.
Your confidence grows alongside your skills, knowledge and experience, and all these things, alongside being able to help people, makes everything worthwhile.
All those long days in the library. All those research papers you’ve had to read. All those early mornings. All the sessions you’ve had to spend hours planning. All the times you almost fell asleep in the middle of a session. All those times when you dropped your resources on the floor and had to scramble around to pick them up.
So, while placement can seem intimidating and overwhelming at first, and no one ever said it would be easy, it all goes into helping you become a better version of yourself, and getting that all important qualification, meaning you can kiss student life goodbye and become a fully-fledged professional instead (complete with a travel mug, swivelly chair and official lanyard).
It’s a learning curve, as are most things in life, but as Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible till it’s done”. Or in the words of Miley Cyrus, ‘It’s all about the climb’. And if you keep these thoughts in mind, anything is possible.