For SLPs

Mind the Mentorship Gap

The mentorship gap is an ever-increasing problem in the SLP community. This seems to be because new professionals are discouraged by having mentors who barely have time for them, and mentors have too many things on their plate to really devote much time and energy to mentorship. How can we fix this? Read this post to find out.

In school, they stress the importance of mentorship post-graduation. It’s paramount to have a good mentor, a mentor who gives you constructive criticism, a mentor who will help mold and shape you into a better professional, a mentor who gives you consistent guidance and support. As SLP’s we are blessed to have this support mandated for 9 months post-graduation while we are transitioning from being graduate students to being fully licensed professionals. In theory, the clinical fellowship is thought to be this utopian-type environment of availability from a mentor who is required to support you. In actuality though, with increased demands on productivity, of increasingly more paperwork and documentation, and high caseloads, the added obligation of supervising a clinical fellow can add one more thing to the overcrowded plate of a SLP who already has way too much to do.

Managing the New Graduate and Clinical Fellowship Programs at Advanced Travel Therapy means I am in constant contact with students currently enrolled in therapy programs from all disciplines as well as those individuals within the first 2 years after graduation. Whenever I speak to them, they always stress to me how important mentorship is to them, and how excited they are to be enrolled into our mentorship program where we match them with a mentor of their same discipline. These professionals are excited to have help and support as they start out not only as a professional, but also as a new travel therapist!

You might be surprised then to know that my mentor team’s biggest complaint is that many new grads never call them back. Therefore, I think the mentorship gap is two-fold: new professionals are discouraged in their pursuit of or are uninterested in taking advantage of mentorship, and the time commitment of mentorship is being placed on an already overloaded SLP resulting in a lack of consistent availability for their clinical fellow(s). These two problems create a cycle where young professionals are brought up without mentorship, then when it’s their time to be mentors they provide supervision in the way it was modeled for them, then those mentees become mentors and then…you see the problem. While I recognize that there are no quick and easy fixes to these problems, I do think there are some things that we as professionals can work on to improve the mentorship experiences for clinical fellows and beyond.

Stop It. You Need a Mentor.

But I am doing great! I know what I’m doing! I haven’t run into any issues! I’ve been doing the same job for years and am doing just fine! You still need a mentor. Everyone needs mentorship. Whether you’re starting your first day of work or your sixtieth year. CEO’s of companies need mentorship. Doctors need mentorship. Sales professionals need mentorship. SLP’s need mentorship. I cannot think of one profession where someone wouldn’t need to be mentored. There is always someone who has different experiences, more expertise, more wisdom, and more insight than you do. There is not an expiration date on when you need mentorship and should pursue it throughout your career, even past the mandated time of the clinical fellowship. Mentorship is a way to better yourself, receive insight into areas that you yourself might have overlooked, and build on your weaknesses. When we are content with where we are, there is no desire to improve and no professional progress made.

Be a Self-Advocate

The trick is, mentorship doesn’t always fall into your lap, sometimes you have to pursue it! Don’t be afraid to ask other professionals for help, and don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need in order to complete your job better. Clinical Fellows: if your supervisor isn’t giving you the feedback you need, ask for it. The mentorship relationship shouldn’t be a tandem bike where only one person is pedaling. Don’t be afraid to ask the other person to pick it up a little.

Be Innovative

Time. If only we had more of it, it would solve all of our problems, right? However, we don’t, so we need to be innovative in order to maximize the amount of time that we do have. Being a Clinical Fellowship mentor and supervisor is a time commitment. As a supervisor we are required by both ASHA and state guidelines to provide a certain amount of supervision (usually an hour a week). An hour doesn’t sound too bad, but when you add in drive time if your clinical fellow is at another building, your own productivity requirements, paperwork you need to complete, and clients to be seen, that hour a week can become difficult to squeeze in. I saw these same problems as well as the need for an improved and more consistent mentorship experience for Clinical Fellows, and as a result the tele-supervision program that we use at Travel Therapy was born. In our program, clinical fellows are supervised remotely by supervisors via a secure live-video connection. Because the supervision is provided in real-time, it is considered direct supervision. Supervisors are able to provide immediate feedback and be more available when the clinical fellows need them due to the fact that they are not having to travel to the location. The clinical fellows who have completed this program report high satisfaction not only because they are receiving consistent support, but also because they are able to be independent and still have a safety net of a supervisor providing feedback. With this program, clinical fellows are given the opportunity to pursue travel, as well as have a meaningful and consistent mentorship experience.

Be a Mentor

This one sounds pretty obvious, but absent mentors are a huge problem! Really pour into your mentees. These are the next generation of SLP’s, who will train the following generation of SLP’s. We want to make sure they are adequately prepared to be full professionals and no two people need the same amount of support to be successful. Even if your mentee seems to be doing fine on their own and don’t  have any questions or concerns, you still are obligated to provide that supervision and support to help them grow. Give them solid feedback: telling someone they are doing a good job doesn’t help them improve; tell them things you thought they did well, things that could improve, how they can improve them, and suggestions for future sessions and moving forward. Take the honor of being a mentor seriously!

As SLP’s we have a unique opportunity to shape our young professionals past the point of graduation. For no other therapy discipline is a fellowship mandated. But I think it is a huge mistake to consider the clinical fellowship the end of mentorship, and I think this way of thinking is harmful to the profession. Mentorship can continue post-clinical fellowship; you just have to be more proactive in seeking it out. Those of us who are more seasoned in the field need to be open and willing to help the professionals coming to us for help. Instead of looking at mentorship as an obligation, let’s start looking at it as an opportunity.

Melissa Jones, MS, CCC-SLP

Clinical Director

Advanced Travel Therapy


Did you have good mentorship at the beginning of your career? What about now? Comment below! I’d love to hear!

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1 Comment

  1. Reply
    Autumn Bryant
    December 26, 2016 at 9:22 AM

    Hi Shannon, I agree with you about mentoring. In fact, I think CCC-SLPs should also be shadowing each other. Thats why I started a service to connect us CCC-SLPs with each other for both mentoring and shadowing opportunities. I’d love to have you check out, join, or share our website: ~ Autumn

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