I have been on the front lines of this crazy COVID19 ride for transitioning to telepractice the last few weeks. I feel incredibly fortunate that I have had the last four years to research, learn, and help develop telepractice programs in response to a need I came across in rural America.
My identification of the need for telepractice has not always been agreed with, welcome, or shared by many that I work with. And that’s okay. I did not go on a mission to find caseloads that met a desire to provide telepractice. Instead, I had caseloads that wanted more time of me than I could provide because of the distance and travel time it took to reach them. We quickly discovered after trialing telepractice with schools (with competent and amazing aids, I might add), that not only did we save a ton of time and money, but we were seeing amazing results from the students. We kept close watch on the data and provided routine meetings and availability to answer realtime questions from parents when rolling out the program. They also met me and my on-site aide in person and together for the first session. This may have helped.
My first “cohort” caseload, as I will call them, was a preschool class that I used an interactive whiteboard giant screen with. I couldn’t have asked for a better set-up. But since then, I have used iPhones, laptops, desktop computers, tablets, etc. with school districts and families to deliver services to my clients. Many of my clients get a combination of me in person and on the screen in a typical scenario.
My contracts have grown to include clinicians that serve school districts via telerpactice only. There are other school districts that prefer the availability of having me onsite, as needed. Just last month, I traveled to a school district that my colleague services via telepractice only, in order to deliver a full day of evaluation services.
That is how I got here, but this is why I stayed. Have I told you that I love my job?
Telepractice has allowed me to set my own schedule, reach kids that were otherwise unreachable, provide safe services to fragile infants so that I am not putting them in jeopardy when I am sick. It has increased my productivity and decreased my missed sessions. If I am sick with a cold, I don’t want to expose my clients, but I can still provide them equitable services. If they are sick, I can still check in with them for a teletherapy appointment and make sure things are going alright.
I completely understand clinician’s points that telepractice is not for everyone or every situation. I completely agree! I did not search out my path, just like all the clinicians being forced to try out telelpractice right now did not choose this current path. But I, my agencies, and my clients quickly experienced the benefits of telepractice. I encourage all the clinicians out there to keep an open mind and realize that this will not be forever. While we are in the situation, though, it is best to open your eyes to the positives.
My current positives:
I see my family more.
I don’t have to leave at 5:30 a.m. for work and return at 7:30 p.m. (yes, that is my travel day sometimes!)
I can go to the bathroom in MY OWN bathroom.
I can drink multiple cups of coffee per day without running down my Starbucks card.
I have found that if I condense all of my patient visits back to back into a few days, I can use the other days of the week to: 1. not dress up. 2. Cuddle a little longer with my kids in the morning. 3. Have flexible documentation and meeting days. 4. Dedicate a little more time to taking care of myself. How you choose to schedule your sessions is up to you and your clients. And that is the beauty here. I love to work hard. And I love to have flexibility. I find both using telepractice.
Please share your favorite thing about telepractice. I would love to hear from you!
Lauren Tandy, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in pediatric intervention in the areas of early language development, telepractice, and feeding/swallowing disorders. Find more from her at tandytherapy.com.