Many new speech-language pathologists approach skilled nursing facilities with trepidation, but this setting can be a fulfilling choice for those interested in working with an elderly population. Trescha Kay, the latest guest on The Missing Link for SLPs podcast, spent six years working in SNF before transitioning to academia. She even works as a PRN in addition to her full-time role because she finds SNF work so rewarding.
During our conversation with Trescha, she laid out some of the things SLPs can expect going into a SNF facility.
The Patients Have Rich, Rewarding Experiences to Share
Although SNFs often get written off as depressing, Trescha finds them joyful settings to treat patients in. That’s because most of the residents are elderly, and they have rich and rewarding experiences to share. Speech pathologists go to great lengths to help their patients, but those working in SNFs may find themselves on the receiving end of valuable wisdom.
That said, Trescha did have to get used to patients passing away sometimes. Many of the residents living in SNFs are nearing the end of their lives. However, giving them someone to validate them and assist in their communication and intake needs in their final years can prove a gratifying task for SLPs who are called to this work.
You Can Help Residents Embrace Their Identities
Trescha noted that patients sometimes lose pieces of their identity with age, and that society often views the geriatric population through a narrow lens. In listening to their stories, SLPs aren’t just gaining wisdom for themselves. They’re also enabling these patients to relive some of their best years and shine again, a much-needed pursuit for many elderly patients.
Expect a Great Deal of Documentation
Although Trescha spends a lot of time treating patients at her SNF facility, she also spends much of it on documentation. Many residents will receive services through their insurance, which means it’s on the clinician to report what treatment they’re offering, how long they’re working with each patient, and other important details that might impact payment.
This can be considered one of the challenges of working at a SNF facility, but it’s something SLPs will run into in most environments. Learning to record proper documentation is an important skill that will benefit new SLPs heading into SNFs.
There’s an Ethical Balance to Strike
With any private facility, speech-language pathologists will find themselves trying to strike an ethical balance. On the one hand, private companies must make money in order to stay open. On the other, Trescha isn’t afraid to push back when something is truly unethical — and other SLPs shouldn’t be either.
This is something to be aware of going into private settings, especially where patients require a lot of advocacy. Fortunately, keeping in touch with mentors can help with this. When you’re questioning your decisions, asking a more experienced SLP could provide useful insights into how you should proceed.
You’ll Be Working With Caretakers
Speaking of advocacy, SLPs in SNF facilities can expect to work closely with caretakers, guiding them on the best ways to care for and communicate with their friends and family members. This can require patience and communication skills on your part, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Trescha finds it one of the most fulfilling aspects of the job, especially when you can see breakthroughs between a patient and their loved ones.
In that regard, working in a SNF facility isn’t much different from working with other populations. In the end, it’s about improving their quality of life. If you succeed at that, you’ll be reminded why you chose this profession — and of how your choice is benefiting other people’s lives.
Did you know Mattie provides coaching to SLPs? Learn more here.