Speech pathologists treat patients with verbal communication problems, speech impediments and swallowing disorders. Since a speech pathologist works with patients who've been injured in accidents, traumatized by life events, affected by diseases, and plagued by speech and language problems, the caseloads are usually full. Heavy work schedules and rising clerical demands often result in long work days.
A speech pathologist has a large number of responsibilities, such as ensuring patient needs are effectively assessed, overseeing treatment, and completing medical forms and insurance documents. According to Exam2Jobs.com, when funding decreases, hospitals often cut speech pathology positions and reduce support staff, leaving fewer pathologists to see patients and less help to complete clerical work. Overseeing a large number of patients can be energy draining and the added paperwork is time consuming. A heavy caseload can lead to burnout, so as a pathologist you must assess your personal goals and the demands of the job to make sure you can handle the stress.
Since budget cuts usually result in workforce cutbacks, hospitals often hire speech pathologists to work on an as-needed basis. A survey by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reports that more than half of all speech pathologists earn hourly wages instead of salaried earnings, and only 52 percent work full-time hours. If you're looking for part-time employment and don't mind getting paid by the hour, a job as a speech pathologist might work for you. If you're dependent on medical and retirement benefits that often accompany salaried positions and need guaranteed full-time employment, you may want to consider other options.
Helping patients with speech and language difficulties is only part of the job because clerical work is also required. Some speech pathologists don't mind updating patient records, completing medical reports, documenting patient progress, keeping logs of the effects of medications, and completing forms for insurance purposes. For others, paperwork is a big negative. Since speech pathologists wear many hats, clerical demands can sometimes make the job responsibilities seem overwhelming.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the standard level of education for a speech pathologist is a master's degree. Most states also require them to have a license to practice and clinical on-the-job experience. Learning the anatomical, medical and physiological aspects of the job requires intense study. Since patients are often frustrated with their speech and communication difficulties, a speech pathologist must learn how to support their patients' emotional needs. Coursework and training requirements are rigorous and challenging, and might not be appealing to everyone.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.