When I was in grad school, my parents met a flight attendant who was a former SLP. She told them that she just wanted to do something that wasn’t so stressful and overwhelming, and that she just couldn’t take it anymore.
As a student in the field, hearing this was disconcerting to say the least. I remember speaking to my internship supervisor about it at the time, and I recall that she reassured me that as long as you practice self-care, it is a fulfilling and manageable career, and you can avoid burnout. She was right. Some weeks are hard and others are wonderful, but the truth is, I love this field and I am SO glad I stuck with it.
These are some things that help me avoid burnout despite the everyday stress we all encounter.
Keep a hard copy calendar:
There is so much more to being a school SLP than diagnostics and therapy. We have duties, district level meetings, IEP meetings, BIP meetings, and the list goes on. Sure, your district might have an online system that reminds you when IEPs are coming due, but keeping a hard copy calendar will help you to keep track of EVERYTHING that is coming in one spot so much more efficiently. You will have a better grasp on when you are available and what things need your attention now vs. what can wait for tomorrow.
Don’t re-invent the wheel:
There are so many fabulous materials designed for Speech Language Pathologists, and those options just keep expanding thanks to websites like teacherspayteachers.com, where you can buy quality, affordable materials designed by other SLPs to target any age level or goal area. Don’t waste time making elaborate materials if you are feeling overwhelmed. Keep your materials organized by goal area and/or seasonally so that each year it gets easier to grab and go with your therapy sessions.
See our store here for some time-saving materials you can use year round!
Ask for support:
Most of us have someone overseeing us at the administrative level, or at the very least a network of colleagues in other schools in the district. If you are sinking, they can’t always afford to send you full time relief, but they can almost always ask if anyone has availability to come help administer some screenings/evaluations for you to give you a chance to catch up. Just be prepared to return the favor if you ever find yourself all caught up! Our administrators don’t know we are experiencing burnout if we don’t communicate our needs to them.
Remind yourself of your professional successes:
Let’s face it. We didn’t go into the school setting because we thought we would get rich! You must have a real passion for helping people to do the work we do day in and day out, when other areas of our field (PRN Work, Private practice) could (in most cases) afford us a more comfortable lifestyle. Reflect regularly on where you have made a difference, even on a small scale. Do you have a group you’ve seen great progress in? Is there a student who has a voice through AAC because of you? Bravo! You are making a difference, in big ways and in small ways, every. single. day. Don’t let the stress of meetings and duties outweigh the joy that comes from that.
Don’t forget about your personal life:
Don’t lose sight of the things in your personal life that give you joy. These are the exact things that will refresh you when you feel the weight of your workload bearing down. Try to set time aside at least twice a week to stay refreshed by appreciating these small joys. For me, it is cooking a good meal, or playing a board game with my husband. For you it might be watching a TV show in the evening, or working out/meditating. No matter what it is for you, make sure that you take care of yourself so that you can continue doing the great work you do to take care of others.
If all else fails, remember that summer is just a few short months away!! 😀
Ana and Lacy
Do you have a tip for avoiding burnout in our field? Comment below to let us know!