Surviving Your Clinical Practicum
I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the LinguaLive conference in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. We had an intimate and dynamic group of conference participants that included graduate students, recent graduates, and experienced SLPs. I served as a discussion facilitator for one of the session for graduate students that addressed how to prepare for the external practicum, and one student posed the following thought-provoking question:
“I would really like to find out how to keep my sanity. I would like to find out how to be everything at once – a student who is learning everything (yet sometimes feels like I know nothing); a clinician who is trying to apply everything I am learning (yet it seems to be all trial and error); and a professional, who, despite limited experience, has to have credibility as to what I am doing and why.”
Even though it was a long time ago, I too remember feeling extremely nervous about starting my clinical practicum. It is very normal to be nervous, and you are certainly not alone. I think it is probably a good sign that indicates your motivation to do well. I would recommend being open with your supervisor about your concerns rather than trying to hide your feelings. Then that stress, at least, would be out of the way so that you can focus on the tasks ahead of you. It may be helpful to sit down to write a self-reflection about your strengths as well as your areas of need for this particular placement. After putting some things on paper, recognize that you cannot possibly tackle and master all the needed skills at once. Instead, prioritize what skills you should tackle first, and ask for your supervisor’s input. Then, periodically review your progress and celebrate your growth. This system of breaking things down and prioritizing may make the clinical practicum experience seem less daunting and more manageable.
All SLPs, even experienced ones, are always learning. Learning is a life-long process that makes our work stimulating and rewarding.