I Work in a Skilled Nursing Facility… and I Love It A short-term clinical fellowship and the cultivation of an ability to listen turn into an unexpectedly rewarding career. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   March 01, 2017
I Work in a Skilled Nursing Facility… and I Love It
Author Notes
  • Michelle Kitchen, MS, CCC-SLP, is the therapy outcomes coordinator at PruittHealth-Lakehaven in Valdosta, Georgia. michellebarn@gmail.com
    Michelle Kitchen, MS, CCC-SLP, is the therapy outcomes coordinator at PruittHealth-Lakehaven in Valdosta, Georgia. michellebarn@gmail.com×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   March 01, 2017
I Work in a Skilled Nursing Facility… and I Love It
The ASHA Leader, March 2017, Vol. 22, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.22032017.72
The ASHA Leader, March 2017, Vol. 22, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.22032017.72
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” —Arthur Ashe
When I graduated in 2007, I was sure that my first job in a skilled nursing facility (SNF) would be short-lived. I would complete my clinical fellowship, then go on to “better things.”
Well, fast-forward nine years and I’m still here. When I tell people where I work, the responses range from “Oh, I’m sorry” to “I know you’re ready to leave.” Typically, I mumble about enjoying what I do, but inwardly I’m surprised at the response when I express my love for this setting.
Working within this area has been very rewarding. I’ve learned to honor life, accept responsibility and lead by example. Because our patients’ needs are so diverse, I’ve become a chameleon, so to speak. One moment I’m a counselor, the next I’m a surrogate daughter/granddaughter, and to all my patients I’m a caregiver.
I’ve learned that about 40 percent of my job is the mechanics of speech-language treatment, but the other 60 percent is listening—I’ve learned the most crucial information during my silence. At the start of my career, I controlled therapy sessions, not considering my patients’ needs. During these times, I struggled, and therapy sessions were like trying to move mountains. Pauses were not allowed. I greeted a patient and never stopped to listen to their reply.
As time went on and my ability to pause and listen to my patients improved, the magic happened. My sessions morphed into journeys that we took together. Their concerns became my concerns—not just the goals we worked on, but their lives.
This change didn’t happen suddenly. My first job was in a rural area, where I first covered three buildings, then seven. At times I felt misused and abused, but I also developed uncanny scheduling abilities and honed my communication skills. With these skills, I became a better advocate for my patients and my team. Many times, patients would seek me or members of my team to voice their concerns. They looked to us not because we could solve all their problems, but because we listened and we gave them time.
I take what Arthur Ashe said to heart: I start where I am, in the SNF, and use what I have: improved listening skills and the desire to help. With these, I do what I can to help patients reach their optimum level of communication and swallow function. I may not be the best SLP out there, but I do the best I can for my patients, wherever I am.
1 Comment
April 3, 2017
C Reid
Welcome Perspective
Thank you for sharing your positive perspective on working in a skilled nursing facility. From what you describe, the interaction, pace of treatment and reasonably comfortable learning opportunities in your workplace seem more...humane? Really like the Arthur Ashe quote as well--it's now my newest favorite!
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March 2017
Volume 22, Issue 3