A Day in the Life of a Medical SLP: What Does Inpatient Rehabilitation Look Like?

Speech-language pathologists interested in the medical side of the industry have numerous options to choose from when it comes to the setting they want to operate in. During The Missing Link for SLPs podcast, we’ve discussed several of those environments in depth. This week, however, is the first time we spoke to a guest working within an inpatient rehabilitation facility: Vanessa Hooks. Vanessa walked us through a day in the life of an SLP providing services in this type of facility, emphasizing one major point: With so many different patients and situations, there is no typical day in this setting. Every day can bring a new challenge!

Patients typically enter into inpatient rehabs after leaving the hospital, and the goal is to evaluate their needs and move them elsewhere. Ideally, the therapists they work with attempt to get them home or somewhere with a more independent living situation. However, some of these patients also move on to skilled nursing facilities. 

SLPs who choose to work in inpatient rehab will see numerous diagnoses come through, covering everything from aphasia to apraxia to dysphasia. They’ll work with a team to provide multiple types of therapy — including speech, physical, and occupational — and then determine how effective it is in improving a patient’s condition. 

Pursuing a career in inpatient rehabilitation can be as challenging as it is rewarding, and it gives medical SLPs the opportunity to see a vast caseload and to challenge themselves over and over. Of course, Vanessa did note the challenges that accompany a career in this setting.

Challenges of Working in an Inpatient Rehab

SLPs can expect challenges within any setting they’re working in, but some of them are unique to that particular niche. For example, given the short-term nature of most stays at inpatient care facilities, insurance can be a big obstacle to providing adequate treatment. SLPs are only granted a certain amount of time to work with their patients, meaning they can’t always provide the level or length of care they’d like. This can be particularly frustrating when a patient is making progress and has room to improve further. 

Working with insurance companies to secure further services and set patient goals can prove a challenge, especially with a rotating caseload. Sometimes, patients are forced to transition out before they’re ready to, leaving the care team to explain why they need to move to a skilled nursing facility to continue services.

If anything, this is a reason for SLPs to ensure they’re providing the most value possible while they are able to work with the patient. The results of such rigorous therapy can often be rewarding despite the challenges.

How Working in an Inpatient Rehab Can Be Rewarding

Even with obstacles to overcome when working in an inpatient rehab, there are plenty of reasons that SLPs find this type of work rewarding. For Vanessa, one of the biggest upsides of this setting is that it’s a hopeful one. Rather than regularly watching patients decline, SLPs in these facilities often face situations where progress and improvement is not just possible, but expected. 

The care teams within inpatient rehabs plan for such progress, and they approach treatment considering how they can get their patients back home. Sometimes, they’ll also get to see long-term results, something Vanessa has gotten to experience before.

Seeing these patients’ quality of life improve due to care is part of what makes speech pathology such a rewarding field, and it’s a huge benefit of working in inpatient rehab. Those encouraged by the reminder of what they’re doing and why might consider this trajectory when becoming a medical SLP. The results certainly make it feel worthwhile.

Want to learn more about Vanessa and her journey to becoming an SLP? Listen to her and Mattie chat on The Missing Link for SLPs Podcast.

Did you know Mattie provides coaching to SLPs? Learn more here.

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