Megan Bulger graduated from the UW in 2013 with a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. In this interview, she discusses how her time at UW helped her to hone her interest in pediatric patients and prepare her for a position at the Experimental Education Unit on campus.
Can you tell us a bit about your educational and professional background?
I did my undergrad in Portland, Oregon, an finished with a degree in Math, which may be the farthest thing from Speech-Language Pathology. I realized pretty quickly that most math careers didn't have enough social interaction for me, and decided to find a job working with people. I worked in Portland for 5 years doing a few different things - event planning, nonprofit work, marketing - until I decided I wanted to go to grad school to be a SLP. I did a year of post-bacc work in Portland to get my Speech and Hearing prerequisites before coming to Seattle for the Core SLP program. It was a very roundabout way of getting here, but now I'm working with preschool kids at the Experimental Education Unit (EEU) at UW and I love my job.
Why did you choose the University of Washington master's program?
I had some family and friends in the area and was aware that the UW SLP program was consistently ranked in the top five nationally. I visited Seattle during the application process and I met with a couple of professors, got a tour of the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, and had coffee with a current student. I felt like the people in the program were genuinely interested in knowing more about me, my personality, and my professional interests. They discussed the "personality" of the program as well which helped me to see how I could fit in. I also appreciated how honest they were: They mentioned a few curriculum changes they'd recently made due to feedback from students and they let me know the 70-degree February weather I was seeing was not, in fact, normal. They were able to convey how collaborative the environment was at UW. I was given a tour of the clinic and I was really impressed with how friendly everyone was, helping each other by suggesting different games to play with young clients or treatment ideas for adults. It seemed like the type of group I wanted to be a part of.
How did the clinical rotations in the program help you advance your career or shape your goals?
During my clinical rotations at the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, I worked with children with receptive and expressive language impairments and articulation disorders. I also worked with adults who suffered from strokes, brain injuries, voice disorders, fluency disorders, and degenerative neurological diseases. These experiences confirmed that although I really enjoyed working with my adult clients and their families, I wanted to focus in pediatrics.
During my rotation at the CHDD doing pediatric assessments, I worked with different children and families every week, and gained a lot of evaluation and behavior management experience. Evaluations and behavior management are two big parts of just about any pediatric position, so this experience really helped build my confidence for future settings.
My offsite internship was at Good Sam Children’s Therapy Unit, where I saw children ages 4-16 and was able to co-treat with PTs and OTs. I really loved focusing on speech, language, and social communication development in younger kids, and learned the immense value of working alongside other therapists to treat the whole child and provide sensory environments that help them learn.
My contacts from the UW clinic and CHDD helped me connect with SLPs at The EEU, where I found an ideal situation, providing services for preschoolers in the classroom alongside their classroom teachers as well as physical and occupational therapists. It’s a fantastic place to work!
Was there a sense of community within your cohort? Did your classmates support eachother?
Definitely. Although grad school was a stressful and intense experience, I felt supported by my classmates throughout our two years together. As I mentioned, the group was very collaborative, but also supportive emotionally. I’m still good friends with many of my classmates and I’m so grateful to have been through that experience alongside them.
Several of our classes included group projects and weworked in groups of 2 and 3 during our assessment clinical rotations. I found my class to be very collaborative and even when I wasn’t working in a group situation, I would often ask classmates for input and ideas and they were always willing to help and share information. This continues to be the case even after we’ve graduated; I still email my former classmates with questions or to get their perspective on tough cases.
What did you enjoy most about clinical training?
I had wonderful supervisors at UW, and I am eternally grateful for everything they taught me. I was always impressed by their ability to give me feedback and suggestions while still allowing me to do things in my own style. Learning from professionals who have been in the field practicing for years is incredibly valuable. I appreciated being allowed to perform most treatment by myself, with the knowledge that they were there if and when I needed them.
How did your training in evidence-based practice help prepare you to make determinations about the types of treatments and procedures you use and practice? How have you applied your EBP training to what you do now?
A huge part of pediatric therapy is working with the parents of your child clients, and my EBP training not only helps me learn more about my patients’ diagnoses and plan treatment, but also helps me explain and show parents why I’ve chosen specific approaches. It’s also helpful in those difficult times when I try something that doesn’t work, because I can look into the research surrounding other treatment ideas and decide on next steps. Last but not least, the feedback I get from both children and families helps me make better choices for my other clients.
Can you tell us about the quality of the professors and supervisors you worked with during your clinical rotations?
I can’t say enough good things about the professors and supervisors I had at UW. The unbelievable knowledge and experience they have alone makes them great resources, but they are also good teachers, which is an incredible combination. Whether it was in the classroom or the clinic, they were always helping me learn, problem solve, and evaluate my own performance. They were also wonderful to work with, which made it even more enjoyable!