Thursday, 15 July 2010

Once a speech pathologist, always a speech pathologist?

Returning to work wasn't much of a decision for me. After four kids in less than four years and all the subsequent time-off that entails, the family financials have taken a battering. We were starting to really struggle. I had to take action.

The big decision came from the work options available. Should I return to my workplace? Or could I join the growing number of Mumpreneurs and work from home?

I looked into setting up a private speech pathology practice from home. It seemed like a reasonable option given that I worked as a Speech Pathologist for about 10 years.

Most of my work was in the acute hospital setting with neurological patients. I always worked in the public health setting because, quite frankly, that's where the 'good cases' were. (The fact that I strongly believe that people shouldn't have to pay for healthcare probably had something to do with it too).

I had my last job as a "speechie" in 2007, just after I returned from Doo Dah's maternity leave. Although I had always loved my job, I had worked my way through a Masters in Health Administration while I was having Nugget and Doo Dah and I wanted to pursue my interest and qualifications in that field. At that point I took on my current job as an Education and Training Consultant for the health service.
When I look back on it though, it wasn't only my new qualification that made me leave the profession. A part of me left speech pathology because I was totally bored with the workplace politics. Too many women (many in twin-sets) clustered together trying to get along. Sydney's speech pathology world seemed to be dominated (at the time) by a few women who I just didn't see eye-to-eye with. The direction of the profession wasn't clear to me. So I left.

When contemplating a return to speech pathology (albeit in the private sector from the comfort of my own home), I had to work through these demons a bit. Clarify for myself the reasons behind my exit and whether it was actually about the clinical work. Could I see myself seeing clients again? Could I face the day-to-day therapeutic relationship?

I decided it wasn't the job per se (I missed some aspects of it) and a teeny bit of me was actually really excited! Flexible hours. A change of scenery. A change of pace. Being my own boss. No politics.

I started to do some research (I am that sort of gal). I discovered there are some serious gaps in Speech Pathology services both in my local area and online. Great for me, not so great for the locals.

Many ideas brewed from my weeks dedicated to working out whether setting up a private speech pathology practice from home was a serious contender in my WAHM plans.

But mostly it was the questions that arose that were my undoing.

Could I really take money from people?

Could I see myself doing therapy with kids all day long and then having to deal with my own?

Could I seriously tackle long-term adult rehabiliation clients where I was their last hope (the public system couldn't help anymore)? Did I have anything to offer these people when I know that they really won't be getting any better anytime soon?

Could our little house cope with another small business operating from its already overstretched dining room?

What would I do if the kids were sick? No-one would pay me unless I was face-to-face with them.

Life is about timing.

There is a time and a place for everything. It didn't feel like it is my time to set up my own practice. I haven't ruled it out in the future, but for now, I think being an employee is the way to go.

After 2 weeks back at work, I think I have made the right choice. A little piece of me would love the enjoyment of a challenging client to sink my teeth into (not literally), but most of me is happy to be settling back into the world of education and training.


Cate P said...

You may have made the right decision for now, especially if it feels right. Don't discount the working from home idea though, sounds like there's a need there that you could meet :)

PartlySunny said...

So much to do. . .

Sounds like you made the right decision to me (as if my opinion counts for anything). It makes me laugh that you're worried about taking money from people. I'm the same way. If I had a business like that, I'd go broke giving away services to people who are worse off than we are. And incidentally, how are you finding the energy to work? Good god. Just reading about your life makes me want to take a nap.:)

life in a pink fibro said...

You're right, it's all about timing. Glad you're enjoying being back at work.

sewfee said...

Hi I've been considering studying speech pathology for a while now and I would like to know what kind of conditions you usually see at home. Is there a lot of demand for your services? How do you get your customers? Aren't you worried about being rusty seeing that it's been a while since you last worked as a speech therapist? And what exactly do you miss most about the job? I would really like to know.

MultipleMum said...

Sorry for the delayed response Sewfee. I have been trying to work out how to contact you. This is my only option.

Home based speech pathology practices are all different. Usually you see people with conditions that you are familiar with. I for example, would specialise in adult neurological disorders, swallowing problems in adults and kids, voice, children's speech and stuttering (and probably avoid child language if I could). It is just stuff that I know.

It has been awhile, but with 10 years experience, I would just need to do some reading, some professional development, join the Association again and I would be ready to go. I have a few friends who would act as 'mentors' so that I could run treatment plans or difficult diagnoses by them (sounding boards) if I needed to.

Usually home based Speech Paths advertise through Speech Pathology Australia (our professional association), their local phone books as well as sending out letters to local schools, nursing homes etc. Word of mouth doesn't take long (if you are good).

What do I miss? Mostly people's stories. Everyone has a tale to tell and I love hearing about their lives and how they manage with the speech and/or language problem that they have. Making a difference to people's lives comes a close second :)

Sorry for the essay. I hope you drop by again.

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