Speech-language pathology offers a variety of career paths to choose from, and the most recent guest on The Missing Link podcast has taken a unique route when building her career. Katie Decker owns a mobile FEES company called Midwest Dysphagia Diagnostics. Her role is similar to running a private practice, but it’s more specialized and requires her to travel.
Katie spends a typical day seeing one to two patients, either in their homes or at a medical facility. She conducts a FEES test, then does a frame-by-frame review of the video. She also consults with the referring medical professional before and after in order to determine the next best steps for each patient.
Katie’s job is rewarding on two fronts. Not only does a mobile FEES provider help patients with dysphagia and other swallowing disorders get to the root of their troubles, but she aids other SLPs who don’t have access to the equipment she uses.
Of course, as rewarding as starting a mobile FEES company can be, it also comes with challenges. Here’s what to expect if you’re considering this career path.
It Requires Additional Education
Most graduate programs don’t delve too heavily into dysphagia and FEES, so becoming a specialist requires SLPs to take additional courses. Aspiring FEES providers will need to take at least one two-day introductory class, but those looking to begin their own practice should strive to obtain as much knowledge as they can. Continuing education can offer this, as can reading as much literature on the topic as possible.
You Need to Be Practicing in the Medical Field for 3 Years
In addition to needing a thorough background on FEES and the instruments associated with it, SLPs hoping to start a FEES company must have three years of experience practicing in a medical setting. For that reason, students and newer SLPs should attempt to get into a medical setting early if they’re hoping to open a mobile FEES practice.
There Are Costs Associated With Getting Started
For planning purposes, it’s worth noting that conducting mobile FEES will require SLPs to purchase their own equipment. Depending on what type of equipment you choose, this can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 upfront. Just as it’s useful to gear your education and early career path toward your goal of starting a mobile FEES practice, it’s best to start saving early.
Your Responsibilities Will Go Beyond FEES
Although running a mobile FEES unit is a heavily specialized practice, those hoping to start their own can expect their responsibilities to extend beyond speech-related tasks. Starting a business also requires a certain level of marketing talent, as well as accounting work, knowledge of insurance, commitment to staying up to date with health protocols, and more. The business side of things can be time-consuming and necessitate further learning.
Don’t Get Discouraged
The path to starting a mobile FEES company is long, but SLPs shouldn’t be discouraged by the challenges. In fact, there’s a fairly large network of mobile FEES specialists out there, most of whom would be happy to help new SLPs following a similar path. Although it can be intimidating asking for advice from longtime clinicians, new SLPs shouldn’t let that stop them from finding mentors and building connections. Those already doing what they hope to accomplish can offer invaluable guidance — especially considering how specialized a career goal like mobile FEES is.
Did you know Mattie provides coaching to SLPs? Learn more here.