The beauty of becoming a speech-language pathologist is that there are numerous settings SLPs can work in. Of course, with a wider variety of options comes less clarity on how to get started, especially if you have more niche interests. For example, Lauren Pontoppidan, the latest guest on The Missing Link for SLPs podcast, works as a pediatric medical SLP — a pairing that tends to be more difficult to come across.

And although it took Lauren several years, hard work, and a little luck to find her role as a pediatric medical SLP, her experience proves that breaking into this setting isn’t impossible. During this week’s podcast episode, she offered some tips to newer SLPs hoping to follow a similar path.

Get Your Foot in the Door

From Lauren’s perspective, one of the hardest aspects of breaking into the pediatric side of medical speech pathology is just getting in the door. Since companies tend to hire from within, it can be difficult for those with less experience to land these types of jobs. This is especially true of SLPs who are applying straight out of school, most of whom have less experience than the applicants they’re competing with.

This is why Lauren recommends taking the first opportunity that comes to you, even if you don’t plan to be there long-term. Not only will it help you build the knowledge base and skill set required to succeed as a pediatric medical SLP, but it will allow you to make connections that could benefit you in the future.

Take Advantage of Resources

There’s no shortage of opportunities to educate yourself as an SLP, and there are quite a few resources dedicated specifically to pediatric medical topics like feeding and swallowing. Lauren recommends seeking these out, as well as taking certification courses to obtain the knowledge necessary for such endeavors.

Among the courses Lauren suggests are Karin Mitchell’s “NICU Graduates and Their Transition Home,” Erin Ross’ SOFFI, and Kay Toomey’s SOS. These offer newer SLPs the training and skills to feel confident about handling serious medical complications and conditions, and they delve into such topics far more than most graduate programs.

Don’t Be Afraid to Specialize

With so many areas of speech pathology, it’s impossible to be an expert on every topic. Newer SLPs might be tempted to take a generalist approach and learn a little bit about everything. However, those with their hopes set on a pediatric medical setting may want to place their full attention on that. 

Becoming a specialist enables SLPs to build a strong background in one particular area, and it often renders them more qualified to practice in that space. If you’re certain about the niche you’re interested in, specializing can prove an effective means of gaining a reputation as an expert in your setting of choice.

Want to learn more about Lauren 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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