Rebecca Reinking is an Australian Speech-Language Pathologist with an adventurous soul who has traveled to 50 countries and counting! She has been a traveling SLP to multiple countries and is the founder and blogger behind www.adventuresinspeechpathology.com. On her blog, Rebecca blogs therapy ideas and resources for SLP’s all over the world. I am thrilled to share this interview with her and get answers to some of my burning questions.
Describe your journey as an SLP…..
I had my heart set on being a Psychologist and started this way until I realized that I had a knack for linguistics and changed degrees. I completed four years in Sydney, Australia and one year in Manchester, UK. I backpacked for a year after I finished, took the first job that I could find and ended up moving 20 odd hours away to a rural-remote town I had never heard of. I loved being a sole clinician in charge of everything, but after a few years I craved the beach and moved to Samoa. After falling in love with an American over there, I moved near Tacoma, Washington and did the school thing before convincing him that it’s much sunnier in Australia. Here I am working in private practice.
Is it challenging to get licensed in new countries as an SLP?About how long does the process take?
You know that emoji with the scrunched up eyes and mouth open like “Whyyyyy meeeee?” That pretty much sums it up. There is so much paperwork, so much waiting, so much money. Sometimes you know you have to complete Form A, but you can’t until you have completed 7 things prior to this. But, it’s worth it when you get there and ‘the process’ is forgotten until you’re asked about it. My process from Australia to the USA took a little over six months.
How do you find or search for jobs in other countries? Is there a website or agency that you can use?
Persistence got me there. I Googled agencies, emailed agencies, attached my resume and just put myself out there. Jobs don’t land on your front door. You have to be active. This is really tough for a lot of SLPs, but start the process of getting certified so that when you are offered a job, you already have the ball rolling. There are always new Facebook groups popping up, so I’d search along the lines of ‘SLP’ and ‘overseas’ and see if any suit your purpose. It’s always nice to get tips on what to do by someone who has just done it themselves.
You have worked in many English-speaking countries that have different dialects/accents. Do you feel it was ever a challenge to communicate and work with your patients/students?
I made friends, connected to colleagues and clients much easier because I was from overseas. You’re a little like an instant celebrity. There were breakdowns in communication but I found that my accent always started to take on my ‘host country’. I subconsciously adapted. As SLPs, communication is so subconscious for us. We understand that it is not just what you say, but how you say it. I think that we are really at an advantage for overcoming any possible communication challenges because of this.
What do you think are the major differences between working as an SLP in Australia and in the United States?
This might sound funny, but just the type of therapy feels really different. I find that on a whole, American SLPs are really into themes for therapy activities (Halloween, spring, St Patrick’s Day etc.) and we aren’t. I also found that there were so many more ‘laws’ that I had to know and be aware of in America (IDEA and HIPAA and FERPA to name a few).
Many SLP’s in the United States are dealing with issues such as high student caseloads and high productivity standards; do you have similar problems in Australia? If not, what issues are facing SLP’s in Australia?
I find the two countries totally different because the United States has so many SLPs working in schools and we don’t have that type of service delivery in Australia. Private practice has really been growing and with funding changes going on in Australia, I guess that the biggest challenges are in understanding the different types of services out there. My jaw dropped when I rocked up to the US with 93 kids on my caseload! I also know that some schools are not allowing external therapists to come in and service their students due to educational disruptions so sometimes just finding a time and place to see a student is an issue in itself.
Out of your extensive travels, what has been your favorite place that you have visited and why?
From an SLP point of view: Mongolia had this amazing language that was slightly lispy and beautiful to listen to. India and Samoa have SO much nonverbal communication with their eyes, eyebrows, head and intonation pattern that I just digged! The UK in general blew me away with the number of accents – I still cannot understand any individuals from Liverpool. From just a plain old travel experience, Tibet and Russia were just unexpected delights in so many ways.
What advice would you give to an SLP who wants to find work abroad?
Get onto a Facebook group for SLPs wanting to work abroad, save your money and know it’s going to cost a little more, be prepared for months of limbo and don’t give up. You’re doing what most people couldn’t: packing up your life for the unknown. Alternate who you whinge and complain too, because you will 😉
[Feature image courtesy of www.adventuresinspeechpathology.com]