There is still time to blow it, grad students. Plenty of time.
I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking that you are going to be stuck with an enjoyable job for the rest of your life. You managed to stumble upon an interesting career option, complete the course work for that four-year diploma, gain acceptance into an ASHA-accredited school for your master’s degree, and pass the first year’s-worth of classes. That’s it. You’re doomed for workplace contentment. Right? Wrong.
A hospital-based clinical rotation will likely be your only opportunity for directly treating adults with communication and swallowing impairments with the safety net of direct supervision from a more-experienced clinician. If you play your cards right, you can both squander the entire semester and squelch any interest you may have in the adult population and/or the specialty of dysphagia with just a few tricks. Here’s how:
Complain about your course work as much as possible
Complain about your course work as much as possible to the SLP who has agreed to supervise you for the semester. Whine about upcoming deadlines for papers and examinations. Roll your eyes and tell her how little sleep you got during the previous night any time she greets you by saying, “How are you this morning?” And if this clinical instructor tries to commiserate, if she even attempts to say that balancing classes, clinic responsibly and personal affairs had been tough for her as well, shut her down. You and your circumstances are unique, and no one in the history of higher education has ever had it tougher than you. If she feels otherwise, you simply haven’t given her enough concrete examples.
If you have no intention on working with adults, be very candid about this
Geriatrics not your cup of tea? Tell your clinical instructor! Do people with dementia give you the creeps? By all means, make it known. I don’t want to work with old people after I graduate. Why fake it? If you make an earnest effort to enjoy the geriatric population, if you smile and treat these older clients with kindness and patience, you might actually grow comfortable with them and find their situations relatable. You might find that they are not so different from you. And then what? Then you’ll expand your career options to include all kinds of adult settings. Settings a previous version of you was sure she wouldn’t like. So cringe and socialize with these old patients as little as possible.
Don’t ask any questions
This is so key to wasting your hospital internship: Worry more about how you appear to your clinical instructor than what you learn. Assume you’re viewed as an expert in all areas of speech therapy, nod along with everything your clinical instructor tells you regardless of whether or not it makes sense, and remind yourself that the knowledge you would have gained from the unanswered question’s answer can’t possibly be as important as keeping your comfort and vanity at bay.
Play with your phone as much as possible
This is so important. Have your phone out in the hall between patients. Text throughout lunch. Scroll and swipe whenever your clinical instructor is documenting or talking to another professional. It will allow you to wordlessly communicate to everyone in the hospital that this boring internship is nothing more than another item on your “to do” list.
Dish about your professors
Do you have a professor who is disorganized? Tell your clinical instructor all about it. Is the doctoral student teaching your speech science class completely unreasonable? By all means, say so! Any perceived flaw your faculty members possess (lack of clinical experience, quirky personality, difficult-to-understand foreign accent) is fair game for the intern looking to waste her hospital internship. It lets your clinical instructor know that she, too, is probably the subject of your criticism. This will make her guarded around you which, in turn, will limit the information, experiences and techniques she feels comfortable sharing with you.
Avoid the urge to take notes
You’re going to see and hear so many new words during this semester. If the internship is to be properly wasted, you must resist the urge to write these new words down and look them up later. The PT said that the patient you’re about to see has significant kyphosis. What is kyphosis? Who cares, right? And the nurse says you can’t treat that lady in 403 because she has gone for a thoracentesis. A what-a-centesis? Don’t know, don’t care. If it were important, you would have heard it in a class before now.
Keep your hands to yourself
Wear the gloves. That is fine. They make you look legit. Don’t go any further than that, though. Don’t touch anyone’s tongue or lips. Don’t go poking around on the inside of a patient’s cheek. Don’t palpate the anterior neck. It takes time and practice to get used to laying hands on strangers, and even more time and practice to learn what “normal” feels like. Why start now?
Just say “no.”
I’m borrowing from Nancy Regan on this one. When your clinical instructor asks you something that can be answered with a yes or a no, remember that it is an offer, not a directive. It is above-and-beyond ASHA’s minimum requirements. Remember that you, the internship-waster, are only concerned with doing the bare-minimum. So the answer is no. Do you want to spend a day with the outpatient therapist? Nope. Do you want to shadow the PT for a couple of hours to learn more about how to transfer patients? Can I get clock hours for that? In that case, no. If you are uncomfortable saying the word no, you can probably communicate your feelings through facial expression and body language.
Remember that you are doing your clinical instructor’s job for her
For free! Contemplate this at least once a day. Your clinical instructor is just sitting there, taking up space, and waiting to cash a pay check for a bunch of patients that you have been treating. This viewpoint in contrary to the fact that she will probably stay late in order to make up for the time she spent showing you around, going over charts with you and answering your questions, so put that stuff out of your mind. Oh, and she could probably do the evaluations more quickly on her own, so shove that fact to the back of your mind, too.
I hope you enjoyed these tried-and-true strategies for wasting your internship. I personally practiced a few of these (to some degree) as a 24 year old intern, and they worked like a charm. I left the hospital with nothing more than the requisite number of clock hours and the certainty that the hospital setting was not for me. I did schools. I did pediatric outpatient. I did early intervention. I threw away old class notes about aphasia and dysphagia. Then, eleven years into my career, I took a job at a hospital. I made the career change for reasons that had nothing to do with the adult population and everything to do with me (i.e. better hours, closer to home), but guess what: I loved it! Loved the setting. The staff. The patients. These past four years of hospital-based work have been the happiest of my career. Grad students, in all seriousness, please go into every class, every setting, every internship and every job with an open mind and good attitude. Your career will be a journey, not a destination, and you just never know where it can lead if only you’ll roll with it.