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Nursing vs Speech Pathology


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Helllooo?

I'm a major flip-flopper and have changed my career goals an uncountable number of times. I recently narrowed my options down to recreational therapy, ultrasound, teaching, speech therapy, and nursing. This week, I ruled out rec therapy (salary and lack of licensure), teaching (respect, education system, salary), and ultrasound (just shadowed and do not want to do that for the rest of my life). So, my two options are speech and nursing. 

I love helping people and giving advice (but, no, I do not want to be a counselor). I am extremely empathetic, understanding, helpful, and patient. I am skilled in writing (english, grammer) and communication. Nursing appeals to me because I encountered the most wonderful nurses in the entire world while I was at residential treatment. I also like the idea of caring for people and forming meaningful connections with them. However, the shifts, working at night, blood/needles/fluids, stress...does not appeal to me. For speech: I have always been interested in languages. I always thought I'd teach english, but I don't enjoy literature and the idea of assigning essays and books to read. I like the idea of helping people with their speech and/or swallowing disorders to allow them to communicate better, eatsafelyy, etc. I also like that I can form connections with people and be creative with activities. With nursing, I can't really do that. I also always imagined myself working in a school, so being a school SLP sounds right up my alley. But I don't want to be stuck working with kids forever because I also love working with older adults. 

...However, my biggest strengths are my caringness and empathy (especially regarding health--mental and physical), so I feel like I'll be "wasting" my talents if I choose speech and then I'll regret it. 

I am also terrified I won't get into a grad program...but I'm trying to tell myself that, if that happens, I can keep trying. If for some reason I "never" got in, I could always go the nursing route afterwards. 

Any advice would be appreciated and please share your experience if you can relate to my dilemma!

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Caring and empathy are great strength's to have as an SLP, coming from a second year SLP student! I will say that since I'm currently placed in a school there is very limited amount of creativity that can be accomplished and have free time. I am responsible for 30 student's lesson plans, and tx. Basically I don't have a ton of time to make my sessions personalized. I'm able to do that to some degree but not nearly as much as a private clinic SLP could so keep that in mind when it comes to school SLP's. Also there is a lot of hidden paper work for school SLP's that isn't discussed in class or at most internships!

 

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That is a tough choice! I'll tell you some of my reasonings for choosing SLP:

1. I wanted a career I could do my entire life. I felt labor intensive/physically demanding jobs (OT, PT, nursing) would personally be too hard on my body as I got older.

2. I loved the variability. I could do everything from work with children ages birth to 3 in early intervention all the way up to adults in nursing homes with dementia and everything in between.

3. I am the expert in my field. I would be the go-to for whatever setting I am in. For example, in the schools, I would be the language/artic/pragmatic expert. In the hospital, I would be the swallowing/aphasia/dysarthria expert. (With nursing, I would feel like jack of all trades, master of none)

4. I wanted a decent paying career. Granted, this field isn't the most high-paying and we tend to actually be underpaid, depending who you ask. It is possible with nursing you would make as much or more, depending on your state and setting. 

5. I love therapy. You are actively working with the client/patient towards reaching goals that will allow them to communicate/swallow/speak more effectively/efficiently. 

While these were important reasons to me, they may not be to you, and that is totally okay! I chose a career I was passionate about and that I felt I could make a difference in someone's life. I knew I picked the right field because when people ask me what I am going to school for (I'm a second year grad student), I could talk about it all day! If possible, maybe you could take an Intro to SLP/CSD course to see if this is something you would be interested in. Or you could shadow a school SLP (depending on your area's COVID restrictions). Perhaps you could become a CNA to see if you would prefer nursing. You could go always go into nursing, then, if you decide you don't like it, do the prereqs for SLP grad school. I think that would be much easier than becoming an SLP to find out you don't like it, and then go into nursing. Either way, I think these are both two great careers. Good luck with your decision!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I know a charge nurse (close to me) and she says the field is hard on her body, she is always stressed at work, on her feet all day, for months she had to do night shifts (to move up the ladder), became less emotional available due to seeing people die often, and has to come into work when someone calls out. Extra info: even with her high position she still has to do sponge bathes for people and clean after them. Random info: she experienced ghost encounters several times. The great part about her job is that she only works 3 times a weeks gets vacations often since she can rearrange her schedule and comes home without any extra work to do. I chose SLP for many reasons too long to describe here but I just wanted to give you extra info. With SLP you will have reports to write when you get home even during weekends if you can't get it done during the week (you don't get paid for this time). Your shift might end at 3:30pm but that doesn't mean you get to go home if your working at a school. Parent meetings can be 1-4 hours long (you don't get paid for this either). SLP is salary based in a school. The great part is that if you enjoy it you wont mind any of this because you do it for the kids. In the hospital setting is different (look into this). I agree with the comment above, volunteering is the only way you will find out what you really enjoy. The SLP programs are intense and hard to get into so you want to know what your getting yourself into before choosing this career. Good luck!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Coming from someone who worked as a school SLP (bachelor level- we get a 2 year temp license) you may want to rethink the school SLP thing because we aren't any more respected then teachers are in the public school system. There's a TON of paperwork as someone else mentioned before but it is definitely possible to not bring work home if you have good time management skills. Being creative in school therapy can become exhausting, real therapy in the schools doesn't look like what you see from IG and FB therapists. Cutesy stuff can be fun, but saved for holidays or as a treat to keep kids engaged. I recommend checking out masterclinician.com to watch therapy sessions or contacting a local school district SLP to see if you can shadow for a few hours to ultimately decide if you want to pursue a career in this field. Taking a look at the day to day work may help you make your decision. Also contrary to what Google says, SLPs do not make a ton of money on average... In the schools, SLPs are on the teacher pay scale, so google whatever school district you would possibly work in, check out the "pay schedule" for what teachers with master degrees make and that is what you'll be making as a school SLP. Of course there's private practice and other niches and variety, but ultimately this isn't the career to pick if salary is a big deal for you. 

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19 hours ago, smarieSLP2b said:

 Also contrary to what Google says, SLPs do not make a ton of money on average... In the schools, SLPs are on the teacher pay scale, so google whatever school district you would possibly work in, check out the "pay schedule" for what teachers with master degrees make and that is what you'll be making as a school SLP. Of course there's private practice and other niches and variety, but ultimately this isn't the career to pick if salary is a big deal for you. 

Salary also depends on where you live. My friend who’s an SLP in a school in upstate NY makes less than my other friend who lives in downstate NY. An SLP I worked with has a friend in a school district who makes 100k but that’s also downstate NY and probably after many years since the SLP I know is over 50 years old. 

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I was in a similar situation as you- interested in the medical field and deciding between going to medical school versus going the SLP route. I am also a very caring and empathetic person so I knew I wanted to go into a field where I could really make an impact and use those qualities. I ultimately decided to go into the speech field because I think SLPs have more of an impact on their patients than doctors or nurses do (and probably have to be more empathetic). Especially when working with adults, you have the ability to help them gain back their communication (which contributes to so many aspects of everyday activities and quality of life) and most patients are so grateful when they see even a little bit of progress, and you are able to build a strong connection with them. I know this might not be as true in hospital settings since patients are constantly coming and going, but the speech field is so cool because you can work with any population in many settings (clinics, schools, hospitals, outpatient centers, etc.)- although I know you mentioned wanting to work in a school setting, you could also work elsewhere and I've heard it's pretty easy to switch between them too! But either way, both fields are great :) 

Edited by ie.slp
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On 11/9/2020 at 9:13 PM, Cece93 said:

Salary also depends on where you live. My friend who’s an SLP in a school in upstate NY makes less than my other friend who lives in downstate NY. An SLP I worked with has a friend in a school district who makes 100k but that’s also downstate NY and probably after many years since the SLP I know is over 50 years old. 

Yep, salary always depends on location, years of experience, and speciality (schools/SNF/hospital/private practice/tele-therapy etc.). Regardless of location, it is a common misconception that becoming an SLP means earning a high salary, while it is definitely possible it's not the reality or the norm in our field unfortunately. That's why I advised the OP and anyone looking specifically for a high paying career to understand SLP is a field where you definitely don't enter it for the money or you'll be in for a rude awakening. Across the United States, SLPs working in school districts are typically paid on the teacher pay scale. Here in Central FL, the salary of a school SLP would be around $43K. Down in Miami or rural areas here in FL the salary varies of course which is why it's so important to zero in on the areas you'd want to practice in! Like South FL/Miami pay is higher, but of course the salary has to make sense for the high cost of living in that area. 

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