Advantages of PRN Therapists
On July 4, 2012, Valerie Lill devoted her blog post on Speech in the Schools to the ever-present need for Speech-Language Pathologists to cover positions in public school systems. I started to think about the sort of shortages we have in long-term care settings: even when positions are filled by permanent or contract staff, SLPs and rehab managers are often scrambling to find coverage for SLPs that are going on vacation or need a day off here and there. Typically, when I take a weekday off due to an appointment, or when I want to use a vacation day on a Monday or Friday in order to enjoy a long weekend, I make up for it by working a Saturday or Sunday.
While this ability to be somewhat flexible in scheduling is a definite perk, it does not solve the ultimate problem: it is often nearly impossible to find a consistent substitute for coverage. There is frequently only one speech therapist working full-time in a building, and even if the size of the building calls for more than one, the second therapist may not be able to cover the combined caseload alone. Sometimes another SLP who works for the same company may be able to lend a hand, but that can be tricky if facilities are spread out or caseload sizes increase drastically.
So, wouldn't rehab companies and nursing facilities want to have a pool of PRN therapists to cover in such circumstances for employees who need to take time off ? Of course! But that pool cannot exist without professional staff. Working PRN at a SNF can also be a great chance for SLPs in other settings, such as public schools and pediatric programs, to maintain their clinical skills with dysphagic and aphasic patients, and persons with dementia. SLPs who are currently exploring related career opportunities that do not require direct patient contact, and therapists who do not want to commit to full-time work due to family obligations or other situations, may want to consider such "casual" arrangements. Some reasons I hear SLPs in educational and other settings give for hesitating to try this are:
Think for minute about the experiences you already have. As a professional, you have earned an advanced degree. You have taken graduate level courses, worked in university clinics and hospitals, and gained important on-the-job experience. You are able to problem-solve, adapt, and work creatively in a team. So, how can you translate your current skills into an opportunity to gain professional experience (and earn a little extra income)? Stay tuned, because I want to delve into that next week!