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Oh, The Places You Will Go: SLP Spotlight – Top Reasons for Becoming an ASHA Board Specialist
SLP Spotlight
SLP Spotlight
Oh, The Places You Will Go: SLP Spotlight - Top Reasons for Becoming an ASHA Board Specialist
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—> Download this episode’s “study guide” and show notes <—

Mattie Murrey  

Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Missing Link for SLPs podcast. I’m Mattie and you are listening to an episode in our podcast series “Oh, the Places You Will Go: An SLP Spotlight” where I get to interview speech pathologists who have interesting positions in our field, from the very basic to the most interesting spots, places people they work with and all of that in between. I get to have the fun of just chatting with these SLPs finding out what they do, how they got their jobs, and any words of advice they have for other SLPs so listen as we explore all the wonderful things an SLP can do. 

Welcome to this edition. I am here with Melissa Farrow. I’m honored to have her as a friend and SLP Spotlight guests for this podcast. She is a Board Certified swallowing swallowing disorders speech pathologist. And I’m happy happy happy to have her here today to explain what a Board Certified swallowing specialist is.

Melissa Farrow  

Hello, I’m excited to be here. This is a great thing I love talking about anything swallowing, and dysphagia. So this is exciting for me to be able to, to share some of this with new speech pathologists out there that might be interested and, you know, focusing their career in dysphagia management and treating patients with dysphagia. That really is why you would do a certification in this area because you really know that this is the area that you want to treat. Because you have to really focus a lot of your work in this area in order to be certified. So if you knew that you would love to do, you know language and cognition and TBI and other things and not so much dysphagia you wouldn’t want to be doing certification in this area. But ASHA does have other certifications. So it’s not the only specialty area to be certified in, but it is for swallowing. 

Mattie Murrey  

So we all know that speech pathologists have their C’s, they follow and then they get their C’s. And then the natural course for speech pathologist, I’m assuming maybe she decides to get some specialty education courses. Like for someone going into dysphagia, she would, you know, become certified and then MBSImP. She may go the fees route, or certification is definitely another layer of certification level on top of the additional courses. 

Melissa Farrow  

Yes, absolutely. So, specialty recognition in and of itself  has been around for a long time in 1995 asha kind of developed this path of recognition, clinical specialty recognition for audiologists, and speech pathologists so that they could be recognized for skill beyond their certification. So this is skill beyond the seeds.  And it also, when we have this recognition or certification, it is recognition now it’s called certification. We have a mechanism for consumers to be able to identify speech pathologists and all audiologists but for swallowing speech pathologists that is a specialty, I have a specialty in swallowing and swallowing  disorders. So, you know, it has been around for a long time. But it is advanced knowledge and skill. So MBSImP, for example, is a course that you take a test you have to pass and you pretty much can do that in about, I don’t know, I think the test is probably about 30 hours 20 to 30 hours of time that you put in to do that testing. Whereas certification for swallowing and swallowing disorders is a very long process. It’s a couple year process. And it’s lots of advanced education in CPUs and work beyond just what you do in your daily work day. So lots of outside activities that relate to swallowing swallowing disorders, but also are not a part of your nine to five treating patients every day, kind of work. It’s beyond that. So that would be the difference between, say getting certified in MBSIMP or FI certified and being a certified swallowing specialist.

Mattie Murrey  

 so as the additional accreditation and course and you said it takes two years,

Melissa Farrow  

The plan that’s laid out by the board is about a three to five year process. Because you have to have three years post Cs. So you have to have had your certification for three years before you can even apply or start the process of application for your board certification.

Mattie Murrey  

Why what would be the benefit of a speech pathologist becoming board certified? Whether it’s swallowing fluency, child language?

Melissa Farrow  

I think there’s a lot of reasons why there’s benefit to it. Not all of it is monetary. You know, in our field, board certification is not the same as it is akin, at least in swallowing. It’s akin to how physicians get certified and they have their board certification and some specialty areas. It’s like that, but we don’t necessarily get the monetary reward for certification the way that maybe physicians would. And some of that, I think, has to do with just our field in general. Being able to show or help people understand what services we do bring to the table in terms of being swallowing experts and swallowing. But I think that it really is a way for you to demonstrate to providers to consumers and to you know, the people in your profession and in your field that you’re dedicated and the work that you’ve done to kind of focus your career in this specific area in this specific  specialty area. For me, being board certified and going through that process of certification. 

While it was long, and I did start it, pretty much I knew before I got my CS that I wanted to go that direction. So I was kind of focusing myself in getting prepared to work in areas that would specialize or have a high caseload of patients that would have dysphagia because I knew I needed that as part of my certification. It really pushed me to grow as a clinician, I learned so much that I didn’t know coming out of school, just from my dysphagia coursework and my clinical coursework. I had a great program and a really strong foundation but I still there was still a lot to learn. And I feel like having this focus and this area that I knew I wanted to be certified in helped me to really hone in on the areas that I needed more work that maybe I wouldn’t have done if I had not thought certification in this area.  Because there’s so much to do in speech, right? There’s just so many directions you can go. And your workday is pretty packed with work and your job duties. So it’s easy, it would have been easy for me to kind of get lost in all of that if I didn’t have this focus for what I wanted to do. And because I had that focus, it just expanded my clinical skills tremendously. That’s been my experience for me as doing the certification process. 

Mattie Murrey  

Interesting. You knew you wanted it from even before you got your Cs, I would think that would be unusual. I would think I would get my Cs then say, okay, what’s the next brass ring I’m going to grab? 

Melissa Farrow  

Yeah, I think when I had my clinical rotation in a hospital, I, that’s where I knew and the experience that I had with patients with dysphagia and did a modified barium swallow study and, and doing all that kind of analyzing and thinking, “Okay, this is working this way. And so if I apply this strategy, this could help..” really just drew me into that whole idea of, you know, treating swallowing disorders. And then also the tremendous impact that I saw that it had on the patients. Those two things had me from that, that moment in my clinical rotation. So I knew that I wanted to do that. I also knew about board certification because my husband had  been, and still is, a speech pathologist for many years and he looked at doing certification, maybe five or six years prior to me going back to school. And he did start the process but didn’t finish it. So, I knew it was an option. I knew it was something that was out there. And when I looked into it, before I got my Cs ,I realized that I really needed to have a plan in order to accomplish it. Because the process was, it is, pretty intensive.

Mattie Murrey  

You know, it’s funny you share that story because I have two sisters who are also speech pathologists, and my older sister specializes in swallowing and she started looking into her board certification for swallowing. And you know, me the little sister tagging on, “Oh, that sounds like a good idea.” I watched her do some of her work. And I’m like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of work.” What advice would you give if I’m not board certified? So obviously I didn’t go that route. And I don’t think my sister is either but she’s a phenomenal speech pathologist. You can still be a phenomenal speech pathologist without certification.

Melissa Farrow  

Oh Yes..

Mattie Murrey  

But what I’m hearing  you say is this is really helpful because you improved your skill set quite a bit.

Melissa Farrow  

 Yes. 

Mattie Murrey  

What advice do you have for the young speech pathologist or just any speech pathologist among the career path on deciding whether or not to become board certified?

Melissa Farrow  

Yeah, so, um, you know, getting board certified, like I said, is a very rigorous process. And I think that in order to be successful at least it’s been my experience and, and talking with other people that I know that are board certified, you really have to approach it with a plan. And, you know, I said it’s, like I said, it’s a three to five year period. So those who are in the stretch homestretch of finishing their Cs or just finished it, that’s a great time to kind of devise the plan. If you know this is something you want to go for, sit down maybe with your supervisor and talk about what are the things that we could do if they, you know, that I could be doing for the next year to get ready for certification. Because you have to have three years pro-C’s before you can even apply. So that first year afterwards is a great time to start the process of coming up with the plan for certification.  

And I think looking for positions that will gear you they’re going to be more geared towards exposure to a variety of patients. You’ve got to see patients with all kinds of different swallowing disorders. So you know, if you’re working in an IS clinic, that’s the patients you’re going to see. And you want to really have a postseason working towards becoming certified. You want to really have a broad scope of experience with a lot of different patients. So acute care is a great place to do that. Inpatient acute rehab also is a great place to do that. For myself, I did it in long term care. And then I did a lot of PRN work in other facilities such as l tax, and then I also did acute care. So I kind of mixed it up as much as I could. So I could see as many different types of patients as I could, to kind of get ready for what I knew certification was going to require.  

And then the other thing that I did that was really important, I think, and for anybody who might be considering this is when I when I did take a full time job, for the last two positions while I was in the very beginning process of developing my application for certification, I sat down with employers and I said, “This is my goal. This is what I want to do as a career goal. Here’s what it is” because, of course, my rehab directors for like, “what what is that? I never even heard of it before.” You know, so I had to kind of sell what board certification is what it would mean to them as employers to have a speech language pathologist who’s board certified, what it would be to the facility and the institution, so I kind of had to sell that and then I needed to let them know what the requirements are because I wanted to be able to, I wanted them to be on board with me and supporting me in it. And so having those conversations was really important.  

For the employers that I work for, they were supportive of me, they didn’t pay me to pay for my CPUs or pay for my certification. But they did work with me in terms of projects, quality improvement projects that I was able to do for them as part of my certification process. And then supported me in time for CEUs, because the CEU requirements are very high. And you have to have a certain number of those CEU that are face to face. So live CEUs, and I had to be able to have the time to do that. And my employers were very supportive in that and I don’t think, had I not talked to them and laid that foundation before I took the job, that might not have been, I don’t know if it would have been as successful as it was. So I think those are very important, you know. And if an employer is like, “Oh, hey, no, there’s no way we can support that,” that helps you to make a decision. Okay, Is this where I want to work? Is this where I want to go? Or is the certification not as important? And it helps for the clinician to make those decisions. Because it truly is an investment in your career. And I think that if you’re able to demonstrate the benefit and the utility to your employer, it’s something that they will appreciate as well. That’s been my experience.

Mattie Murrey  

So you’re talking about some of those requirements, the CEUs and things like that, what are some other requirements to become board certified? 

Melissa Farrow  

So you have to have a total number of clinical hours in the three years prior to application so you have to have a total of 350 clinical hours per year and that has to be in dysphagia. So you have to have been treating, managing or assessing counseling in dysphagia. 

Mattie Murrey  

Mm hmm. 

Melissa Farrow  

Um, and then you have to have three letters of recommendation, three reference letters. And these are not from patients. You can’t have a patient write you a reference letter that says this was the best speech pathologist in the world and  she was wonderful.

Mattie Murrey  

SLPs aren’t using a patient as a letter of recommendation, I don’t think, have they?

Melissa Farrow  

 Um, yeah…I am a mentor as well for the the board and I’ve gotten some interesting…,

Mattie Murrey  

 huh, I would not have thought.

Melissa Farrow  

Yeah, so that’s why I tell that right off the bat, look, your letters of recommendation cannot be from patients. 

Mattie Murrey  

other professionals. 

Melissa Farrow  

Yes, other professionals and it’s really great to have interdisciplinary professionals. So you want to have physicians and dieticians, and just other people that can talk to your skill as an interdisciplinary team member, which is, which is really great. And then, of course other SLPs are always good too. And probably the hardest part. The hours are easy because you work eight hours a day for a year and you’ve got plenty, especially in medical settings, in terms of getting the hours for patients. The letters of reference are not hard.  

The hardest part in getting your application accepted is demonstrating those activities beyond the expected regular job duties. Right so and it has to be in categories of education, mentorship, leadership, scholarship or research. So you have to be doing things beyond what is just your regular eight to five job. So educating nursing on safe swallow protocols or doing in services to staff. Those are all your regular job duties and they cannot, they aren’t included as, or considered by the board as, beyond what you would normally do in your job duties. But doing things outside of the community, in your local area in your state, regional and national organizations that advocate for swallowing disorders, those are the types of things that you’ve got to be a part of. And that’s, that truly is the hardest part because it’s beyond your 40 hours for sure. 

And that’s kind of why incorporating and getting your employers on board is really helpful because a lot of the a times and in my experience, what I did was I incorporated what I was doing at work with those beyond work responsibilities, and that way I was allowed to have time to do it while I was at work. And that was really helpful.  I have talked to two people that have their certification that weren’t that lucky. And they had to kind of do them separately. And that does happen, but it’s still doable. You just have to have pretty, you have to be very organized to be able to do it. 

Mattie Murrey  

So you mentioned something earlier that you mentor, do you mentor speech pathologists who are working on their board certification?

Melissa Farrow  

 Yes, yes. 

Mattie Murrey  

That’s huge to have a mentor.

Melissa Farrow  

I think it is because you can have you can I be a sounding board for the people that are going through it to look at their stuff. Look at their application, look at the type of CEUs they’re taking and say, “Hey, here’s a great CEU, did you hear about this? this would be great to do.” And just brainstorming ideas about projects and things that might be beneficial for them to have their application accepted.  As a mentor, we go through yearly refresher kinds of things with the board. So they talk to us about the things that they’re looking for, and the things that they expect. And when they’re looking at applications to determine if somebody is appropriate, and their application is accepted or rejected. And that’s really helpful to us as mentors because then we can take it back to the people that are going through the process and say, I don’t think this is quite what they want, or Yes, this is right on track. You do not have to have a mentor to go through the process. You can absolutely do it on your own. It’s not a requirement. It’s just something that the board put together as a support to help people successfully navigate the process because it is quite an investment in their time. 

Mattie Murrey  

So people can find mentors through ASHA?

Melissa Farrow  

So you go to the board website, the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. And if you click on the tab that says, “Are you considering certification?”, you can request a mentor if you know somebody who’s certified  that you would like to be your mentor or you just say, I want to do this and I’m requesting a mentor, and then the board will send out that information to their their mentors and they try to hook them up with people that have their similar backgrounds so that they can they have this connection. It doesn’t always happen that way. But a lot of the time. Most of my mentees have been in similar backgrounds in STEM, so we have some point of reference. But they don’t always doesn’t always work that way out that way. We don’t have a whole heck of a lot of them. So we’re kind of spread thin right now.

Mattie Murrey  

What has been one of the best things that’s happened to you since you’ve become board certified?

Melissa Farrow  

Oh, my goodness. I’m gonna say, definitely a career highlight of mine has been the opportunity to work with the people that developed it, see that it’s the board and we did a short course at ASHA together about IDDSI’s transition. It was amazing. It was, you know, I just felt like oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m here standing next to these people. And I believe that the connections I made through becoming certified and just going through the process of it and just being engaged in that community is what allowed me the opportunity to do that. And that, by far, has just been It was an amazing experience.  And I think the other thing that’s been really cool is, you know, I don’t have my PhD, I’m not a researcher trained, like somebody who holds their PhD. But I’ve been able to do one and a half research projects. I did one research project while I was doing my certification, and I’m actually doing another one now, some survey research, and I think that going through the process of becoming board certified, really gave me the confidence to be able to just go ahead and do it. You know, and learn the process as I’m going through it and not just say, Well, I have to have this first before I can do research I I realized that wasn’t true and that I could do them both. I kind of have this new avenue of my career as a clinical researcher on top of being a clinician. And that’s been really exciting. 

Mattie Murrey  

That’s been one of my favorite things about our career has been how multi dimensional,  multi layered it is. Because I think when I first started out, it was going to be “Oh, I’m going to be a speech pathologist like my older sister “who worked in a nursing home. And I started getting into the field myself, and there’s so many more things we can do so many directions we can go. And in addition to those directions, there’s layers to those directions. If we can do the one to one we can do swallowing. And we can do it in a wide variety of settings and like you’re sharing with us a wide variety of skill level sets. Yes. I was just going to double back. It’s you use that term IDDSI, can you describe IDDSI is for those who don’t know. 

Melissa Farrow  

So it’s the international dysphagia diet standardization, and it’s an initiative and it is an initiative to standardize the modified diets that we recommend for patients. So all the way from liquids to solid consistencies, and it’s a framework that has been developed through evidence based research, to provide terminology very specific terminology and very specific ways of measurement to determine whether to describe a textured food or a thickened liquid and,  give us all a language to communicate with other specialists….

Mattie Murrey  

…other specialists in the field! Because somebody who is not a specialist would give like a 20 second 15 second “Oh, it’s the new diet level that we’re using around the world”  IDDSI is very in depth, complete definition, which is great. 

Any final comments or words  of wisdom for someone who’s thinking of possibly pursuing this additional goal, this wonderful level that we have available to us? 

Melissa Farrow  

Um, you know, I’m gonna say that you’ll go to the website, you’ll look at the three to five year plan, and you’ll be like, “Ahh!” don’t be scared. It’s something that you feel passionate about, you will figure out a way to get it done. And yes, it looks intensive, but you really only do it in small pieces, and it’s just one step at a time. And you get the CEUs all done that you need, and you’ll be like, “wow, I got it done.” You’ll get the hours and you’ll start your project. You’ll be halfway through your project, you’ll finish your project and it will happen, it does take time. But don’t be overwhelmed by the requirements in front of you because it’s just like going through your master’s degree. In earning a speech, pathology degree, it’s very intensive. You know the work, but you did it. And this is just another thing that you can do. 

Mattie Murrey  

That makes me happy and maybe find a mentor, right? 

Melissa Farrow  

Yes, absolutely.

Mattie Murrey  

 Today’s compensation was really a mustard seed starter, where I was hoping to have a conversation which I did with somebody like you, who’s board certified, who can just plant a little thought, or an idea in an up and coming speech pathologists mind that she or he can plan in their vision planning and really enjoy their career. 

Melissa Farrow  

Yes. Wonderful. 

Mattie Murrey  

That’s, that’s what I’m hearing from you.

Melissa Farrow  

Absolutely!.

Mattie Murrey  

It has really increased your clinical skills and your opportunities and your way of thinking you’ve you’ve totally stepped into it. 

Melissa Farrow  

Absolutely. 

Mattie Murrey  

So Excellent. So Melissa, tell us where we can find you.

Melissa Farrow  

So I am on Facebook and Instagram at global flow life. And then I have a website global full life.com. You can find me there. And you can request me as a mentor, Melissa Farrow, if you want to talk to me more you can. I don’t know if I gave my contact information, but I’m happy to give it if somebody wants to give me a call and has questions that I didn’t answer in this podcast. I’m happy to talk with anybody about anything further in terms of board certification and any questions they might have about this. I’m happy to chat anytime. 

Mattie Murrey  

And you’ve given us your picture, your bio, your contact information on wonderful, which are available on the Fresh SLP website on the podcast ticket. Well, excellent, great. Thanks for joining us today. I hope today’s conversation has created some aha moments for you and motivated you to become a better SLP continuing to connect some of those missing links between what you know and how to use that knowledge. Thank you for downloading the missing link for SLPs podcast and if you enjoyed the show, I’d love you to subscribe, rate it and leave a short review. Also, please share an episode with a friend. Together we can raise awareness and help more SLPs find and connect those missing links and get the information needed to help them feel confident in their patient care every step of the way. Follow me on Instagram and join the SLP community on Facebook. show notes are always available so come learn more at fresh SLP calm let’s make those connections you got this.

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Not a substitute for a formal SLP education or medical advice for patients/caregivers. 

Hosted by Mattie Murrey

June 23, 2020

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