Jennifer Bannister Career Spotlight
Jennifer Bannister is a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) practicing in Meadow Lake. Learn more about her experience with the Saskatchewan Health Authority:
What area of healthcare do you work in? Where do you work?
"I work at the Northwest Health Facility in Meadow Lake in the Rehabilitation Services program as a pediatric Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). Our department is small but mighty (we have an Occupational Therapist and a Occupational Therapy/Physical Therapy Assistant in our office as well)! I’m currently the only pediatric therapist who is located in our office. I see clients from around the Meadow Lake area but also have little ones who come see me from northern communities (La Loche, Buffalo Narrows, Beauval, etc.). I do some work in the pre-Kindergarten classes as well. I also work with other organizations in the community such as the Meadow Lake Early Childhood Intervention Program, Kids First and the Meadow Lake Family Resource Centre."
What are you responsible for as a Speech Language Pathologist? Please describe a typical day for yourself.
"In my current position as an SLP, I am responsible for the prevention, assessment, diagnosis and treatment of speech, language, social communication, voice and fluency disorders in children from birth to Kindergarten entry. My work days vary every day. Sometimes I focus on treatment with my clients. Other days are full of follow up appointments where we are targeting different communication goals with clients and their caregivers. I might also have new assessments scheduled where I get to meet a little one and their family to discuss their needs and how to best support them and/or connect them to other services in our community. During the school months, I might head over to the elementary schools where I complete assessments with children who are enrolled in the pre-Kindergarten programs. I also participate in team days where other disciplines come together to meet children with more intensive needs. I work with some other amazing therapists who travel to Meadow Lake to see clients here. I work with an early childhood psychologist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist and other therapists from the Autism Spectrum Disorders program on a regular basis. Some of my favourite days are when I get to collaborate with community organizations and provide training and support to staff members who work within our area."
How is your work-life balance as a Speech Language Pathologist? Please compare your current experience with other jobs you have had in the past.
"I currently work Monday through Thursday and am able to be home in the evenings and the weekends. This is extremely important for me as besides being an SLP, I am also a proud mom/foster mom to 7 kids (yes, 7 children). I love being able to be home with my family and attend their extra-curricular activities. There are times when work life spills into my home life but I try to minimize that as best I can. Other jobs that I have had in the past have always had the expectation that you work some evenings and weekends so it's nice to be in this role and have a better work-life balance."
Have you always wanted to be a Speech Language Pathologist? Tell us more about your career path?
"I had a few different career ideas before settling on being an SLP. Right after high school, I was accepted at the University of Saskatchewan and thought about maybe veterinarian medicine or psychology. I knew I wanted to do something that helped others. During the end of my first year, a friend started talking about therapies in general and mentioned Speech Language Pathology. It peaked my interest and I did some research. Unfortunately, we currently do not have any post-secondary schools in Saskatchewan that have a program to train SLP’s so I had to look elsewhere. The closest schools for me were either University of Alberta or Minot State University (MSU) in North Dakota. I chose Minot State University as it had a Bachelors program in communication disorders as well as the Master’s program in Speech Language Pathology. I applied to MSU and transferred there to finish my Bachelor’s degree and continued on with my Masters. When I was looking for employment, I knew I wanted to work with little ones (preschoolers) and I also knew I wanted to return to my home province. At the time, most positions posted were focused on providing service to adults. The position I’m currently in was available and it had a focus on pediatrics. I applied and was awarded the position. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be here 18 years later, but I fell in love with the area and the people in this community."
Are there opportunities to further your career as a Speech Language Pathologist?
"Absolutely! There is a wide variety of opportunities when working as an SLP. The settings where you might find an SLP employed is vast. We work in hospitals, schools, public health, daycares, private settings, etc. I know some SLP’s who have even transitioned into teaching roles. SLP’s can also work with all ages! From newborns to our oldest members of the community. Some SLP’s work with individuals and focus on their communication needs. Other SLP’s might work with individuals and their feeding and/or swallowing concerns. And some do both. It varies from place to place and from SLP to SLP."
Do you have any advice for students or new graduates looking to pursue a career as a Speech Language Pathologist? Are there specialty areas that are in more demand than others?
"One of the pieces of advice that I remind myself of on a daily basis is to “just keep swimming”. There were many days as a student and new graduate that I felt like I was drowning but reminded myself to finish one thing at a time and keep plugging away. Find people you can connect with in your profession and other co-workers in your area that you can talk with. Find a mentor- there are lots of seasoned SLP’s who will take you under their wing and help you. I would say that right now, SLP’s in general are in demand. There are job opportunities everywhere so it’s definitely an in demand career!"
What is the number one thing you love about being a Speech Language Pathologist?
"Do I have to choose just one? I love helping people. When I help a little one or family with communication needs, the ripple effect I see is overwhelming. I’m not just helping my client, but also impacting everyone else in that person’s life (caregivers, siblings, relatives, friends, etc.). Or if I can help a family connect to another service they might not have known about, it’s a rewarding feeling. The other thing I love about my profession is the diversity. Every single client is different. They are all unique in their own way and their needs are also all unique. It’s challenging and rewarding all at the same time!"