The non-clinical spotlight series exists to shed light on all of the interesting non-clinical career paths that physical, occupational, and speech therapy professionals have taken. Today’s spotlight focuses on Elana Shinkle, who went from in-person SLP to teletherapy SLP at Global Teletherapy.
What is your full name and title at your current job?
Where did you go to SLP school, and what year did you graduate?
I attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and graduated in 1991.
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
I began my career at Green Valley Area Education Agency in Creston, Iowa, where I served southwest Iowa’s Union County schools for six years.
In what settings did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?
I left Creston when my husband wished to attend seminary in Dubuque, Iowa; that began a long series of job changes as we moved with the ministry.
The first of several Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) jobs was in Platteville, Wisconsin, 64 miles away from our parsonage in Hopkinton, Iowa.
I have also worked as a statewide AAC consultant, as a staff SLP at a hospital, and at an outpatient pediatric clinic.
Most of my career has been in the schools, however, with a return to GVAEA—in addition to two other area education agencies around the state of Iowa. I was itinerant, serving as many as 10 schools each week.
At what point did you realize you wanted to do something non-clinical, and why?
After some scary Iowa winter commutes, I was thankful to be invited to try teletherapy SLP. I have been serving students online since 2013, with three different companies.
What are you doing these days?
I am happily working as a telehealth SLP, working with Global Teletherapy (GT). I am just finishing my fourth year with them.
From my home in Iowa, I serve students and their families in Arkansas and Georgia. There are more and more online therapy companies popping up all the time, but I have found a great fit and consider GT to be a blessing in my life.
What was the interview like for the teletherapy SLP?
Global Teletherapy’s interviews are short and sweet 😊 They are typically held by GoToMeeting; using an online format is convenient and makes sense for the setting!
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way?
Each teletherapy company provided some training; my GT colleagues and I learn from each other through our Google email groups.
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ContinuEd Telehealth Courses
- Telehealth: Innovations in Care (PhysicalTherapy.com)
- Telepractice in Speech-Language Pathology (SpeechPathology.com)
- Connecting to Communicate: Designing Telepractice Services (SpeechPathology.com)
- Connecting to Communicate: Defining Telepractice (SpeechPathology.com)
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How did people react to your unconventional career path at first?
This is a funny question, looking back. I recall the day my husband asked me to move my home office from our dining room table into a spare bedroom, which has become my cozy office with a nice sunny window (on sunny mornings).
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you?
I have the luxury of setting my own schedule; each day is a bit different. Midweek, I have a few hours unscheduled for appointments, makeup sessions, or a coffee shop break.
What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?
I complete similar tasks to on-site school work, minus much of the paperwork and all of the commute! I enjoy finding new materials online.
What are some of the challenges of your role?
Sometimes there are technology issues. My students learn about online troubleshooting. GT has organized procedures to follow.
What are the rewards?
I do achieve just as good of a rapport with students and families online as I did on-site! In fact, the relationships tend to be closer, as all of my students are seen 1:1.
How do you think working as an SLP prepared you for this role? Which skills transferred?
Well, basically the skills are the same, as I was already using technology in my on-site sessions. But I did need to learn how to screen-share materials and how to troubleshoot connectivity issues.
We are expected to serve students comparably to how we do on-site. The goals are the same as in brick and mortar schools.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to on-site?
The hours are more flexible with independent contracting, and the pay per hour of work is higher. (I had put in countless hours on IEPs when case managing with the schools.)
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
As with any SLP position, being organized and detail-oriented is an asset.
Also, flexibility is key in any education setting, especially with the technology aspect. Be able to switch gears if a site is down, and use another communication method as needed.
Do you work remotely or on-site?
My work is all done remotely via GoToMeeting, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Google calendar reminders, email, phone, and text.
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles?
Yes, OT and SLP. We also contract with mental health professionals. I post jobs on Facebook and LinkedIn when I hear of those that are difficult to fill.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
I rely mainly on SpeechPathology.com for continuing education. Recently I completed a 3-part series on telepractice by Dr. Todd Houston.
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What is next for you?
I am looking forward to seeing how I can grow with Global Teletherapy.
What do you want to do with your career long-term?
I would love to continue encouraging other professionals to try telepractice. And I want to keep providing direct service to students.
What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours?
Join the teletherapy-related Facebook groups. Engage in conversations there, and private message therapists who seem to love what they do.
Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?
Keep an open mind to trying something new; if I can try teletherapy in my 50s, perhaps you can try it too!
What would you like to change most in your profession, and why?
I would love to have universal licensure, or at least interstate compacts (like the one for PTs) so that we could serve clients in other countries or states with our credential (such as ASHA certificate of clinical competence) being sufficient.
How would you propose doing so?
I am active in ASHA’s Special Interest Group 18 (Telepractice); collaborate with others in your profession and join your related Special Interest Group (SIG).
Lobby your legislative body for a change in service delivery options.
If you could teach anything to today’s graduate students in your profession, what would it be?
Get a couple of years’ experience on site so you can see how things work in that setting, then consider telepractice as an option to reach clients who may not have access to services.
Feel free to connect with me and with other telepractitioners on social media.
Do you have any special advice for other SLPs who want to follow in your footsteps?
Try a few companies until you find the best niche for you; choose to stay with one that treats you with respect. There are many choices out there, and lots of clients who need you. Proceed with joy and optimism!
Thanks for your insight, Elana!