Kelcie is hopeful her experience at the QEII will help her find employment at the health centre. (Contributed).

Kelcie Gale has always been inspired by communication, but it wasn’t until high school that she realized she wanted to be a Speech-Language Pathologist (S-LP).

Kelcie, now in her third year of Speech and Language Pathology at the Dalhousie School of Human Communication Disorders, was hooked after an S-LP spoke to her Grade 11 career day class.

What she didn’t anticipate was how her practicum placement at the QEII this past summer would change her focus from a desire to work with children to discovering the rewards of working with adults.

“I am passionate about working with adults that have had an event like a stroke or a brain injury, who up until that point were able to communicate their wants and needs, then all of a sudden that ease of communication is no more,” Kelcie explained. “With children it’s a lot of fun, but they don’t share the same appreciation as adults do, because adults have had that communication skill for so long that when it’s taken away from them, it can be so upsetting — it’s such a lifestyle change.

“Helping people get back to communicating is where the rewarding aspect is.”

While stroke patients are the most common, Kelcie’s placement took her all over the QEII; working with patients suffering from traumatic brain injuries, to swallowing disorders.

“I really liked learning the unique situation of each individual. There was a lot of problem-solving going on where we had to figure out what is the safest option, what is the best option, but also what does the person want and what does the family want?” Kelcie says. “Every day was interesting and you didn’t really see the exact same thing twice.”

During Kelcie’s 12-week rotation at the QEII, she was supervised by Clinical Educator Sue Aucoin of Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres. Every year, Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres provide over 30 placements for S-LP students province wide.

Sue says being an S-LP is definitely not a “sit down at your desk kind of job.”

“We’re on the go from first thing in the morning to the end of the day, because Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Centres provide service to all the inpatient units at the QEII’s Halifax Infirmary. Because of this, the students have an opportunity to provide screenings, assessments, treatments, education and counseling,” Sue says. “You definitely have to be very flexible. It is pretty busy and that’s just the way we like it.”

Sue says good interpersonal and collaboration skills, along with the ability to make independent decisions, are major assets for students considering S-LP as a career, and Kelcie presents many of those competencies.

“She was definitely a pleasure to work with; her interpersonal skills are wonderful and the patients that she worked with really did like her. She’s easy to talk with and she has a delightful personality, so she got along very well with the other team members in each unit. She was a pleasure to have for a student, that’s for sure.”

Kelcie is hopeful her placement at the QEII, along with her strong skill set, will bring her back to the QEII as an official Speech-Language Pathologist after graduation.

Emily Balkam, academic coordinator (Speech-Language Pathology) of Dalhousie University’s School of Human Communication Disorders, says while S-LP grads are typically finding employment after graduation, students should be prepared to start out working part-time or in temporary positions — permanent work can be largely dependent on one’s willingness to relocate.

Certainly the majority are obtaining employment somewhere,” Emily says. “Whether it is in Nova Scotia or across the country.”