Many SLP’s have stated that they experienced a significant feeling of burnout in the last few years in all areas of the field. When I have asked my colleagues what has caused this burnout, many have expressed that they feel overwhelmed and that the pandemic has made it more difficult for them to focus. Avoiding burnout out starts with knowing, SLP’s are far from alone.
A research study from APA (American Psychological Association) indicated that according to a 2021 survey polling 1501 workers, 79% of employees had work-related stress the month prior and 26% of employees experienced a lack of interest, motivation, and energy, Even more concerning was that 44% reported physical fatigue, a 38% increase from 2019.
Another area that has led to SLP’s burnout using my own lens as a source is that many have to develop their own skills with little support for the systems they work for. You're typically the “odd one out” in a school or medical setting. While self-motivation is critical in every field, treating a diverse set of needs requires ongoing trainings working alongside our own independent learning in cyberspace and textbooks.
These are some ideas that I have collected over the years to help reduce burnout, continue to stay up to date through trainings in different areas of speech, and seek out mentorship. In fact, I learned that all three of these are interconnected and one feeds into each other! When all three are maximised, you can feel reinvigorated in our SLP world.
Studies have shown that burnout typically happens because people feel…
Let’s combat this, and let’s do this now.
So many of my colleagues feel that they aren’t offered trainings consistently after graduate school. While graduate school gives you a little bit of everything - like a sampling at a buffet - there is not enough time to zoom in and focus on EVERY area of speech. As a result, many of us are craving trainings, Some of us are seeking to branch out from the original niche they found themselves developing an area of expertise in while others are trying to fortify an area in speech and language that they are currently primarily serving but want to further develop.
Since the pandemic, SLP’s have been called upon to serve more literacy based needs and social emotional challenges as there hasn't been enough manpower to support these areas, and our scope of practice often dances around blurred lines. Further professional development opportunities in these areas have been expressed by almost every SLP I encounter on my evaluation team to help determine the need for services as well as those that I speak to that are working in the schools.
There is good news: there is a plethora of free webinars that exist within the SLP world. In fact I have contributed to this! If you are looking for something specific, make sure you are following experts on social media who may be the first to drop free webinars: they get free advertisement while you get learning at no cost. It is a win win! LinkedIn and Instagram are my go-to social media platforms. It is how I connected with Noala!
If you are school or hospital based, make sure you log on to free webinars that are being offered. They are in cyberspace (albeit not always so easy to locate!) and may even be listed online once you log on to your employee portal. Sometimes, the focus is on literacy and other times there are more free webinars on social emotional learning. Other times, there are language based learning opportunities. Trends that emerge based on need tend to be the focus of the free webinars at your work’s online hub.
Don’t forget that Noala also has so much research that you can access to help learn about all the different types of students or clients that you are working with, from selective mutism to adult fluency disorders.
Some other free webinar sources that you can get CEU’s for:
- SLP Summit offers free webinars with a diverse set of webinars across our field as a series over a set of days throughout the year. Be on the lookout as one just passed.
- Bilinguistics - you can even snag a free ethics course which many institutions globally requiring, including ASHA (this is fairly new). This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about bilingualism in our field, as many of us work with students who come from diverse backgrounds and need speech and language while considering the bilingual piece of their puzzle.
As you continue your journey through speech and language pathology, you will be able to find mentors even if they’re not in your school or other settings. Sometimes we feel like we're on an island of our own, because in many settings there are just 2 or 3 of us or in some cases just 1 - us! That can be challenging for collaboration. So it is important to connect with others on social media and through ASHA groups and seek out others who you can bounce ideas off of.
Noala is building up this community across the US and UK and there are always people willing for you to lean on for help. This will help reduce anxiety, and ultimately help relieve burn out from anxiety of “doing it all alone”, and the feeling of being disconnected from others in the field.
ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association) has an ASHA Mentor Step program. If you are thinking about being an SLP or are in school to become one, you can be a mentee! I remember spending time as a mentor and it was always rewarding to help those on the journey that I embarked on (trying not to count the years..) some time ago. The way this is designed allows you all to check in consistently or when questions come up to help you make important decisions pertaining to pursuing the field.
If you already are an SLP, seek out mentors at work or even through social media. There are always going to be people that are willing and excited to connect and collaborate on projects with you. Don’t underestimate other members of school based support teams, including occupational therapists who can help mentor in overlapping areas ie. executive functioning. Joining an ASHA SIG group can also be extremely helpful as each group is divided according to your area of interest. There are built in message boards and communication related to the specific area of speech and language that you are part of (ie. voice) which can help with using mentors and others passionate about that area to help you.
Avoiding Burnout, taking time for self care
Self care is crucial to reducing burnout in any job. This is no different in our SLP world. The few years of the pandemic altered our world in ways that have increased people’s feelings of burnout, and it is important to seek out things that are “just for you” and relaxing. Those things can range from yoga to outdoor hiking to reading, and for some may be going on a weekend trip. Set aside time for yourself every week to do something FOR JUST YOU. There are many online yoga and meditation sessions that you can join throughout the year. In fact, many cities host online events that can help distress and connect with others at the same time. Wellness Mental Health is an example that hosts midday short mediation events, resilience workshops (resilience is the key to getting back up after experiencing extreme stress), as well as mental health awareness talks and webinars.