From stutterers to stroke victims, speech pathologists -- also known as speech-language pathologists or speech therapists -- diagnose and treat communication disorders while treating their patients with compassion and care. If you love helping others and enjoy challenges, a career in speech pathology could be for you. In order to stand out as a professional and best serve your patients, you need to possess a specific skill set.
You'll be hard-pressed to help a patient improve her communication skills if your own are sub-par. It is essential that you are an excellent communicator -- both in terms of speaking and listening. You need to be able to listen for specific impediments and issues in another person's speech, and effectively demonstrate the proper pronunciation of words for her to learn from. Listening skills will help you to make diagnoses and develop individualized treatment plans for each patient. Additionally, you need to be a good writer. While you don't have to be the next Kerouac or Emerson, you should be able to write detailed progress reports as you track your patients' improvements.
Technical and Computer Skills
Speech pathologists use many tools and technologies in their work, and you need to have the technical skills to operate each correctly. You might use adaptive communication switches or voice synthesizers for patients with physical handicaps; tablets and communication boxes for patients with severely inhibited speech ability; and sound measuring meters to monitor the vocal fold activity in your patients. E-mail, spreadsheet software, analytical software and medical software will make regular appearances in your work, so you need to be proficient is using computers to best utilize the resources these programs offer.
Critical Thinking Skills
Every patient you'll work with as a speech pathologist will be entirely unique, and it's highly unlikely any two of your treatment plans will be the same. To best serve your patients, you need critical thinking skills to solve complex challenges by developing effective treatment plans and updating them as needed. Critical thinking skills will also prove helpful in making diagnoses and evaluating improvement.
At the core of every speech pathologist is passion for helping others and the ability to treat people with dignity and respect. Compassion will be one of your greatest assets in this line of work, as it will enable you to sympathize with your patients and help them overcome their frustrations as they work to improve their speech abilities. Patience is a virtue for speech pathologists. Some of your patients may struggle greatly with their treatments and you need to be patient as you provide them with the extra time, attention and assistance they need.