Speech-language pathologists evaluate, diagnose and treat language, voice, speech and swallowing disorders. The job primarily involves working one-on-one with patients and their family members in order to overcome such challenges. Speech pathologists usually possess a master's degree in speech-language pathology and, depending on the state they work in, may be required to be licensed. There are specific personality traits and general qualities that are appropriate for the field as well.
Most speech-language pathologists directly interact with individuals who have communication and swallowing disorders to provide clinical services. They need to be compassionate, empathetic, patient and supportive. In order to adeptly communicate test results, diagnoses and treatment options, the speech pathologist should convey technical terminology in terms laymen can understand. He needs to be sensitive to people's fears and the stress associated with communication and swallowing challenges to put patients and family members at ease. He also needs to be a good listener and diplomat.
For an accurate patient diagnosis, the speech pathologist must be analytical, observant, objective, intuitive and persistent. She should keep her technical knowledge sharp and stay up-to-date on current diagnosing equipment, assessment methods and occupational best practices. She will need to apply her scientific aptitude and practical training but should also be willing to think outside of the box on occasion so she can formulate creative approaches and treatments for unique situations and patients.
Documenting evaluations, therapy sessions, patient progress and other information is a key part of the speech pathologist's job. It requires someone with an eye for detail, a respect for protocol and procedure, strong written communication skills and good task focus. A top-performing speech pathologist is thorough, diligent, organized and meticulous, and she records her notes and observations in a timely fashion so they are fresh in her mind.
Speech pathologists often need to work cohesively with medical professionals, such as physicians, nurses and other types of therapists, as well as with social workers, teachers and psychologists. The speech pathologist should be comfortable asserting himself to ensure proper care for the patient but also needs to be team minded and willing to work collaboratively with other professionals to get results.
In teaching patients how to make sounds, strengthen muscles and use physical strategies for improving communications and facilitating swallowing, a speech pathologist may need to demonstrate actions for her patients, suggesting the need for dexterity. In hospital and clinical settings, she may need to physically adjust and assist patients to get them into an upright or other position to improve therapy results, implying the need for physical strength and flexibility.
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