The First Week at my Externship – Seven Lessons Learned

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As you may know, I am currently beginning the second year of graduate school. In my program, we have clients through our university’s clinic for the first year. Then, we get assigned to an adult & child externship (one each semester in the second year). This past week, I started my first externship…. with adults.

I am a kid person, through and through. I love difficult kids, easy kids, funny kids, serious kids. I love language kids, artic kids, kids with autism, fluency kids. I love them all.

To be fair, before this externship, I had only had one adult client before, in our university’s clinic. He was awesome and turned into my Virginia grandpa. He made me laugh and he made significant progress throughout our semester together.

So the night before I had to begin my externship, I was semi-optimistic. I had been assigned to a very nice facility where I would get experience in rehab, skilled nursing, assisted living, and memory care – all at one site!

To sum it up quickly, the first day was rough. I was shown around the facility for most of the day. Honestly, for me, walking around the facility on the first day was the worst moment thus far. We spent much of the day in the memory care unit: constant alarms, people crying, people trying to escape, people looking for their deceased loved ones, the smells, the sights… It was almost too much.

But, the next day came and went. When I left, I thought to myself, “I think I could do this for a job”.

The third day came and went. When I left, I thought, “Ugh. Growing up sucks.”

And then the fourth day came and went. I thought, “Is it weird that I actually kind of enjoyed today?!”

So overall, I’m learning a lot (read my lessons below). I have some clients that make me depressed. I have some clients that are hilarious. I have clients that I want to adopt as grandparents. Next week, I plan to help a 94 year old woman make a Facebook to keep up with her grandchildren. Does it get any more awesome than that!?

Surprisingly, I like the adult setting more than I thought I would. There are still moments every day that I just want to leave or take 10 minutes to myself, but I guess that is to be expected!

After week one, here is what I have gathered:

1) When you ask your classmates how their externship is going, you will either get, “I love it!” or “I’m learning a lot.”, the latter of which is not a good thing.

2) Scrubs are a wonderful thing.

3) The university’s clinic is NOT REAL LIFE. In real life, you have difficult coworkers, limited supplies, no lunch break, and no privacy (aka you might share a small room with PT & OT).

4) Not every setting or placement will be a perfect fit for you.

5) A good attitude and a good work ethic will get you a long way.

6) Connecting with your clients, whether they will forget you in an hour, is one of the most important aspects of the job. That doesn’t change for ANY setting.

7) And last, dementia makes me sad.

What do you remember from your externships? 

Lovely comments so far...

  1. I love your last lesson you’ve learned – haha! I have been thinking since my first semester of grad school that working with adults isn’t going to be for me because progressive degenerative disorders make me sad, and so does aphasia. However after 2 semesters of having assigned annotated bibliographies in these areas, I feel less hopeless for these people and more like we can make a difference, even if it’s small, because we can have such an impact on quality of life. After taking our course in dysphagia, I’m also wondering if maybe that’s what I’ll want to do because I found it so fascinating. I’m in a private special-needs school this semester. I can hardly wait to do my adult placement, although I’m also very nervous about it because I’ve never ever had a client over the age of 21. I think it’s ok that certain disorders make us sad. I think this field draws more sensitive, caring people, and that’s what makes us so important but also what makes it hard sometimes. One of our profs said you get used to the degenerative disorders, but I honestly don’t want to – I want to feel whatever emotions with each one because I think that’s what makes us different from other professionals.

    I hope you continue to enjoy your placement, and I look forward to more posts about it! :)

    • Thanks, Katy!! Love to hear you’re going through the same thing it sounds like! I’ve heard that too, about “getting used to” some types of disorders but I agree with you! Good luck with your adult placement! Your current placement sounds like my dream job!!

  2. Love this post! Specifically #3 because it’s 110% true. Your supervisors can really make all the difference. I did do an adult hospital placement (even though I thought I was set on pediatrics) and actually really enjoyed it. That was largely due to my awesome supervisor. And amen to #2 – I used to work in a private practice and could wear scrub bottoms, which was ahhh-mazing!!

  3. Not every setting is a perfect fit, but you do learn a whole lot! I never thought I would ever like working in a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF), but I found I did like it. My supervisor was rather tough, I cried often after leaving because I felt defeated. However I got better at handling difficult people, and my supervisor and I actually became really close by the end of 3 months. I still send my supervisor Christmas cards and she says she is counting the days until I go back into the adult field. It’s always nice to know I have the experience on my resume if I ever am in need of a job outside of my elementary school! I also feel like a more well rounded SLP having worked with ages 3-90+ Good luck and takes lots of notes!!!

    • I think your experience may end up being similar to mine! :) I really do think I’ll end up liking it… it’s just totally different than anything I’ve done in the past so it’s a BIG learning curve!

  4. This is too funny. I think these are some of the exact thoughts and words I used after my first week at my adult placement. Coming out of school, I was certain I wanted to work with adults, but after I did my school internship, I completely changed my mind. Now I’m a month into my CF in a public elementary school, and I LOVE it! Hope you continue to learn a lot and keep up this positive attitude!

    • That’s great! Glad you felt the same way :) I have always been certain I want to work with kids and still feel that way. But like I said, I at least will feel much more comfortable/knowledgable now if I decide to PRN or switch fields later! I truly am learning a lot!

  5. This is my first semester as a grad student and I was assigned to an adult day care facility. I can relate to your experiences. I am not sold on the whole scrubs thing though. Mostly because we have to wear all black and I like color in my life. I have a client with Parkinson’s and she is in her early 60′s. She makes me sad, but I am hopeful to try and make improvements in her life. I did learn that I like working with adults that have a developmental disability. Mostly, because they are like kids, which is where I feel most comfortable too.

    • That’s awesome that you get assigned to placements your first semester! Wow! I need color in my life though too… starts to feel like a uniform when you’ve gotta wear all black! :( Good luck with your externship though. I’m sure it will only get better and better!

  6. Sharon Schackmann says:

    I love this post! When I had my adult placement, I was absolutely dreading it. By the end of it, I had grown to love it and love my clients, though I knew I still wanted to work with kids. It’s AMAZING the things you can learn from the adult population. Some of my favorite memories from my second year of grad school were from my adult placement. #3 and #6 are my favorites, but the scrubs one comes in a close third. Nothing beats not having to choose what to wear to work every morning :)

  7. I loved reading this post. I just finished my first full week (only 2 days the previous week) in an adult setting. I’m also a kiddo person. This is a career change for me and was a teacher before this, so it’s way out of my comfort zone too. The way you described how you felt on each day of the week was pretty much how I felt. It is getting better though, and I am starting to enjoy it. Glad to see you are too! Good luck with the rest of the semester :)

    • Thank you so much, Melissa! I seriously love hearing that others felt the same way at their externships. Good luck with the rest of your semester as well.

  8. I was so scared to do an adult placement during grad school but I ended up loving it! I still think I’ll always work with kids, but I like knowing that if I ever do change my mind there are lots of options out there for working with adults! And I agree with everyone else that scrubs are the BEST!!!

    ~Ms. Lane (http://slpmaterials.blogspot.com)

    • I agree! I do love the options SLPs have for changing around. I’m glad to hear you ended up loving yours! I could definitely see that happening for me too. Thanks for the comment!

  9. I have a very vivid memory from one of my externships. In an acute hospital setting, I remember my supervisor trying some scrambled eggs with a stroke patient. He was unable to manage them, so she had to suction them out. I became very hot and asked to be excused. I’m pretty sure I almost fainted. I was also 3 months pregnant, so I don’t think that helped either. I have a much stronger stomach now! Lol.

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