Friday, October 24, 2014

Center for Hearing & Speech Provides Required "Hands On" Experiences to Area Students

(From left to right) Center Audiologist Dr. Kate Sinks, practicum students Ploy Maroongroge and Uzma Wilson, and Center Chief Audiologist Dr. Rebecca Frazier.
Post Updated November 11, 2014

Working summer jobs or internships in your major during college looks good on a resume. It just may put you at the head of the class when it comes to landing that first 9-5 gig.

For some students it’s a required part of their curriculum.

Since at least 1994, the Center has been a practicum site for speech/language and audiology students from universities throughout Missouri who require clinical hours, or real world experiences, prior to graduation.

“The Center has been around for a long time, and we know the importance of a good education for the speech/language pathologists that we will employ and work with in the local area someday,” said Gina Cato, chief, speech/language pathologist.
Practicums, or internships, provide a variety of real-life experiences for audiology and speech/language students. Working beside professionals with years of experience, students learn to apply concepts and techniques discussed by a professor, how to relate to clients in a variety of settings and how to quell the jitters when trading a classroom seat for a lab coat.

Washington University and Missouri State University send students pursuing doctorate degrees in audiology to the Center to work with Center audiologists.
Speech/language students from Fontbonne University, St. Louis University (SLU) and Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville spend semesters working beside Center speech/language pathologists
Beginning next year Maryville University will send its speech/language pathology students to train with Center staff as well.

“We have been working with the Center for more than 20 years,” said Barbara Meyer, associate professor and director of clinical education at Fontbonne University. “The therapists at the Center are professional and provide excellent training for our students. The students also gain experience with a variety of clients and disorders.”

Jean Evans, director of clinical education in the department of communication sciences and disorders at SLU, agrees with Meyer. "The Center provides valuable learning experiences for our students in a number of critical areas. The supervisors provide varying styles of supervision which create different avenues of learning," she said. 

Individuals communicate differently, and there’s no one treatment spelled out in a textbook that works for everyone, Cato said.

“Internships teach graduate students to evaluate individuals, implement therapy programs, analyze progress and make changes to that plan so clients continue to improve communication skills over time.”

Like anyone learning a new skill set, time, patience and practice make for better outcomes for both client and clinician.

“Practicum experiences allow students to develop strengths and recognize and modify weaknesses,” said Alyssa Pursley, a doctorate of audiology student, class of 2016, Washington University. “We are not able to truly master a technique or understand a particularly difficult testing method until we are placed directly in an environment that allows us to practice it hands-on.”

Learning in an encouraging and supportive practicum environment gives students confidence, Pursley added. "The most influential aspect of my practicum experience at the Center was being able to work alongside a variety of audiologists in an environment that radiates support and encouragement for every member of the team. I was also incredibly motivated by the methods and processes that the audiologists follow in order to provide the highest quality of care to their patients.”

Tayler Beal is a second year audiology student at Washington University currently working at the Center.  The Cape Girardeau native experienced hearing issues as a child and helping others with similar challenges always intrigued her to help others.
“The experience at the Center is great,” Beal said. “I love to see a large variety of patients across the lifespan.” 

“Clinical practicum sites like the Center can provide a lot of hands-on learning experiences to students through direct patient encounters,” said Uzma Wilson, an audiology student at Missouri State University who worked a semester at the Center last year.

Fontbonne University’s Meyer agrees. “Participating in practicum placements allows students to both apply what they have learned and also have a better understanding of the types of things they will be doing when they graduate.”

SLU's Evans points out additional benefits of practicums. "Students become actively engaged in back-to-back cases, problem solving, counseling, referrals, and internal and external advocacy of services." 

You never know where you’re going to end up, according to Cato. “One of our current speech/language pathologists observed therapy sessions at the Center when she was a student. This was more than 15 years ago, and we’re so glad she came back to work with us in 2012.”
The Center is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that last year provided $1.75 million in audiology, speech/language therapy and school screening services to residents in metropolitan St. Louis and surrounding communities.
It is a proud member of the United Way.

The Center can be reached at 314-968-4170 or check it out on the web at  

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