Internship number two – a growing experience
Paulina Smietanka ‘14 and Jim Stellar
Paulina already wrote a blog on her first internship. She wrote it in three parts and we saw a progression within that one month period. Now we are back after her second internship experience and trying to emphasize the growth that can occur when one goes from one internship experience to another.
Paulina, please tell us about your second internship.
My second internship is at a private practice speech-language pathology office. Primarily, children attend the office to either extend their services provided in school (referred to as a dual recommendation) or to receive early intervention. Early intervention focuses on children under the age of three. If a diagnosis is placed under the age of three, research has proven that early intervention is the most effective type of therapy due the plasticity of the brain. Relative to schools, a private practice is a completely different setting.
Thanks. Now can you reflect a bit for us on how you were different on this second internship and how that may have played into differences in your experience (or was it all due to the site).
After my first experience at a school, I realized that it was not well suited for me. I felt as though there was something missing. The strange thing is, I knew that that puzzle piece could have been found and I was seeking it– and luckily it was when I found my second internship. After taking an Anatomy and Physiology class in the spring semester, I was assured even more that a school setting was not for me. There was something about extreme cases that triggered me. With some research and a few questions to my professors, I narrowed down my choices to either a children’s hospital or private practice. I want a career that is going to change lives dramatically and I do not want to be restricted to the progress that could be made. I do not care about the annual tests children take at the end of year (not that their not important, but personally I think their more important things to establish beforehand), I care about their happiness, seeing smiles, building relationships and uniting family. All of this is possible for me in a private practice and hospital because when there seems to be a lack of hope, progress can be the light that shines and opens people’s hearts.
So what is the big difference between private and public practice?
A private practice speech-language pathologist and school speech-language pathologist drive two different buses. Both professionals hold the title “speech-language pathologist” but each holds a different responsibility. In my opinion, a speech language pathologist at a school is more of a speech teacher whereas a private practice speech-language pathologist is more clinical. There’s a fine line between improving a child’s speech and /or language skills strictly to meet the requirements of standardized testing and the class curriculum, and being able to help children adapt into a social member in their community. From my second internship, I have come to understand the importance of focusing on each child’s social needs individually. Therapy is effective because children are not pressured to fit in nor are they compared to others. Instead, patients first develop a friendship, a bond, so that they can gain confidence through comfort and recognize their inner abilities. It is not till after that foundation is set that speech-language pathologists work on articulation, language exercises, swallowing routines, etc. in a fun and motivating way. I have seen numerous children walk into the waiting room impatiently waiting and asking inquisitive questions to their parents (i.e. why isn’t the therapist done with her session yet?) simply because their thrill to play is delayed – I think that speaks for itself.
There is a lot of controversy today over unpaid internships (I am assuming your second one is also unpaid). To avoid the criticism, colleges need to make sure the unpaid internship is an excellent learning experience. So, can you speak to what you have learned from these internships that make them worthwhile to you?
My second internship is unpaid. I completely understand the controversy that surrounds the topic. I have seen friends of mine cringe at very sound of an unpaid internship. They often relate it to modernized slave labor (An extreme comparison but the general idea applies - work without pay). Personally, I am not fond of unpaid internships because I find that the learning experience is often removed most of the time. It is just a pretty word that covers up a simple trade off. An intern does the little things no one in the company wants to do (make cups of coffee, run errands, fill out paper work etc.) and the reward is simply having something to put on your resume. The whole concept to me is disturbing and a waste of time.
However, I think that my second internship is an exception. Why? I have the key to an effective internship - a ethical supervisor who loves her career. My supervisor wants to share her love of speech-language pathology with me, or as she likes to say “the future of speech therapy”. In fact, she has seen several speech-language pathologists in the field and couldn’t help to sigh from disappointment because there was no passion or commitment in their therapy with children. I actually think that that is her motive. She wants to prevent ineffective therapy by building up my interest in the field. Time and time again she reminds me, what you do within your session is crucial, every minute counts and as your trying to help the child clinically, never lose sight of what makes each child unique. Children are always leaving signs of their personality and when we are able to find that sign we are have opened up a door into a deeper, more personal therapy. Therapy must be exciting and mold around the child. During my internship, I face the reality of the field. I have real kids, with real families placed before me and a session to see how speech language pathologist’s work wonders.
I still have a lot to learn in school but my internship has allowed me to grasp another side of speech language pathology. I have taken the title a little more seriously because from firsthand experience I have seen lives change under the role of a speech language pathologist. If I would give any advice to another student it would be: be open-minded. I took the risk of an unpaid internship and have come to love it without pay. One should take a chance at an unpaid internship and see where it takes you. It may leave you with a pleasant surprise just like it did for me! If it doesn’t interest you, one can always leave and continue to quest an internship that is going to benefit them whether it’s paid or not. Lastly, it is important to remember that the easy way out of mastering coffee making is never going to overcome the power of an internship that will guide and strengthen you in your career.
As you blog readers know, we like to sum up at the end of these posts with the key point. Here it is “a ethical supervisor who loves her career.” Why is this so important? Colleges and Universities want our students focused-forward on what they are learning and how it will play out in their future learning, career progression, etc. An internship supervisor who inspires, in this case the word “ethical” carries that inspiration, creates that environment. Of course, that is also the point of the well-taught class that fits the curriculum.
A second feature that is also latent in this simple characterization is social, often non-verbal communication between the supervisor and her/his community of practice that constitutes the work site so that the student fits in, feels both comfortable and challenged, etc. Loving one’s career is a good first step in that process. Being able to communicate that love to the office and the intern is probably the second step. Clearly colleges placing interns need to look for this kind of environment.
One last point is that the student needs to be ready. A second internship can build on the first and improve readiness. When done correctly, the whole process is opposite to the standard criticism embodied in the book Intern Nation and the effect can be powerful for the student and great for their classmates/professors when they return.