Goal-Setting for SLP Clinical Fellows

The Speech-Language Pathology Clinical Fellowship is an amazing time to learn and grow as a new professional in the field. It gives you the opportunity to focus on further developing your clinical skills while still having a supervisor to go to with any and all questions about difficult cases, less-familiar diagnoses, and even when seeking advice about work-life balance.

As a new grad just starting out in your career, it can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day responsibilities and pressures of a brand new full-time job, and forget to take the time to reflect and set goals for both your professional and personal life.

However, with the right planning and reflection, your SLP Clinical Fellowship can be a successful and rewarding journey that prepares you with organization and balance throughout your career as an SLP.

In this post, we’ll review what an SLP clinical fellowship is, and how to set both personal and professional goals throughout it as you begin your career as a speech-language pathologist.

What is an SLP Clinical Fellowship?

Once you get your Master’s degree in speech-language pathology, your clinical fellowship is the initial 9 months that you begin working, where you have an SLP supervisor who helps you get your footing in your very first job.

In terms of title, you are an SLP Clinical Fellow and you sign your name with a “CF-SLP” after you write your name and either “M.S.” or “M.A.” depending on the type of degree you earned.

Example: First Last, M.S., CF-SLP

How long is an SLP Clinical Fellowship?

You are a Clinical Fellow until you attain 1,260 hours of supervised job experience over a minimum of 36 weeks. After that, you can apply to get your Certificate of Clinical Competence (your CCCs) through ASHA. After that, your signature line changes to, for example, First Last, M.S., CCC-SLP.

Where can you complete an SLP Clinical Fellowship?

Clinical fellowships can be completed anywhere an SLP typically works, as long as an SLP supervisor with their CCCs is available and eligible to supervise you throughout the experience.

Some universities and medical centers have designated clinical fellowships that are often funded by grants and do not guarantee employment after completion of the fellowship because they have 1 clinical fellow each year who goes through a specific training program. These experiences often have a research and leadership focus, with additional responsibilities outside of directly working with clients/patients. Fun fact: I did one of these designated clinical fellowships, myself!

To learn more about SLP Clinical Fellowships, visit ASHA.

Setting Goals During Your SLP Clinical Fellowship

Remember that it is important to set both personal and professional goals as you begin your career.

Areas often considered when setting personal goals involve exercise, nutrition, self-care routines, and other activities that will help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. It may also be important to you to set goals that help you grow as a person or in your faith/spirituality/intellectually, such as reading a book each month, learning a new language or hobby, or consistently attending specific events.

When setting personal goals for your clinical fellowship, it’s important to think about both the short-term and the long-term. Personal short-term goals often end up supporting our long-term goals of health and wellbeing because they tend to fall in the realm of habits and routines.

For example, your morning routine might include exercising and making a smoothie, while your evening routine might include washing your face and using a nighttime moisturizer and reading for 30 minutes before bed.

These routines become habits that ultimately support your long-term goals.

Starting out with a new routine often takes setting short-term goals, though. For example, reading may not be in your routine yet, so you would set a goal to read for 30 minutes before bed 3 nights per week.

When setting professional goals, I like to start with the broader picture by identifying long-term goals, and then hone in on the shorter-term goals needed to get us there.

You might be thinking, “but I don’t have long-term goals - I don’t know what area I want to practice in!” …and that’s totally okay!

Instead, consider what you envision in terms of work-life balance as mentioned before.

What does a typical week look like for you in 10 years? Are you working in one location on a consistent day-to-day schedule, or are you switching locations and/or schedules depending on the day or assignment? Do you travel a lot for work (whether locally or further for travel assignments), or do you stay close to home - or even at home (e.g., teletherapy) - each day? How many hours do you work per week? Per day? Are you highly career-focused, or do you work solely to support your family and/or lifestyle?

It’s okay if there are a lot of in-betweens or if you don’t yet know the answers to these questions, but I want you to think about all aspects of your future before setting professional goals. Always keep yourself at your center, and your goals will start to become clear!

For long-term professional goals, think about the type(s) of setting you wish to work in. Long-term goals can also be focused on your areas of interest in the field. You may set goals related to research, leadership, and other areas of professional development (e.g., moving up to become a team lead, manager, etc.) depending on your specific interests and settings you wish to work in, as well.

Short-term goals should be achievable within the time frame of your clinical fellowship and should be focused on developing the clinical skills needed to reach your long-term goals. Consider what you want to achieve in your long-term goals, and use short-term goals as the building blocks to get there.

What do you need to accomplish within your clinical fellowship in order to become the SLP you aspire to be one day?

If you aspire to work on an outpatient interdisciplinary diagnostic team, for example, you’ll want to work to improve your speech-language assessment and diagnostic skills. You’ll also want to build skills related to teamwork and collaboration.

Thus, you can set short-term goals to (1) complete a specific number of various assessments by the end of your clinical fellowship, (2) observe evaluations completed by related professions to begin to understand their evaluation process, and (3) co-treat with OT, PT, and/or Psych whenever possible throughout your fellowship.

1. Be Specific: When setting goals, make sure you’re as specific as possible - vague goals that don’t provide enough direction will be difficult to follow.

2. Make it Manageable: Your goals should be achievable and realistic.

3. Break it Down: To make your goals more manageable, break them down into smaller, actionable pieces that will keep you motivated.

4. Set Times/Dates to Assess Your Progress: Give yourself a timeline for reviewing your goals ~once every 2-3 months to assess your progress and make any changes to goals based on what worked/didn’t work and any new interests that come up based on new experiences.

Overall, setting personal and professional goals during your SLP clinical fellowship can help ensure that you make the most of this key learning time in your career. By setting specific, achievable goals, you will stay focused and motivated while ensuring that you make progress in areas that are most important to you both personally and in your lifelong career.

Still unsure of how to set your goals, what your long-term goals should be, or where to focus in the short-term? Sign up for a coaching call, and we’ll identify what’s truly most important to you and how to set yourself up for success using actionable, achievable goals!

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions! You can find me on instagram @speechlyss_slp or send me an email at hello@speechlyss.com. Have an awesome day!