Published on May 19th, 20151
Getting to Know the 2015 National Clinical Certification Exam Award Winners
Every year, Speech-Language and Audiology Canada (SAC)’s Awards and Recognition program recognizes the two individuals (one audiologist and one speech-language pathologist) who attained the highest score on our clinical certification examination in the previous calendar year.
Alexander Colquhoun, M.Sc., Aud(C) and Megan Kondrackyj, M.Cl.Sc., R.SLP, S-LP(C) are the recipients of the 2015 National Clinical Certification Exam Award. Below, they discuss why they entered the professions, how they prepared for the exam and what they’ve done since becoming clinically certified.
How did you get into audiology/speech-language pathology?
Alexander Colquhoun (AC): I was always really into science. I liked learning about the body and how it works and when I did my undergraduate degree in biochemistry, I really enjoyed learning about the eyes and ears. I had never thought about audiology as a career until I had the chance to shadow an audiologist, which is when I found that I liked the idea of caring for and getting to know people. I enjoy communicating with people and building relationships with them so I chose audiology because of the time spent with people and the science aspect of it. I’m also fairly analytic and found that the field fit my strengths and what I liked doing. Now that I’m in it, it feels kind of like detective work. It’s cool how many tools and kinds of equipment we have at our disposal to figure out what’s going on with someone’s hearing.
Megan Kondrackyj (MK): I decided that I wanted to become an S-LP while working in business after my undergraduate studies. I had a friend that was studying speech-language pathology and it seemed to be just the type of job I wanted. I have always been interested in language and I wanted to have a job where I would be helping people, so this looked like it would be a very challenging and rewarding profession for me. I volunteered and completed the prerequisites in my time off, and then I applied until I got accepted into the program at Western University.
How did you prepare for SAC’s clinical certification exam?
AC: The biggest parts of my preparation were my internship and externship experiences. Each experience was a 12-week placement where I got to apply what I had learned in school to a real-world setting. One of the audiologists I worked with was particularly helpful — he always sat down with me to go through the more interesting cases we worked on, to make sure I really understood what the results meant and to emphasize how important it is to be a critical thinker. As for actually studying for the exam, I reviewed my notes from the courses I took at Dalhousie with a friend from school. We spent about 10 nights reviewing material from about 10 courses, doing one course each night, and then I did a booklet of 100 practice questions that really helped to get me in the right headspace to write the exam.
MK: I reviewed the exam blueprint, read an S-LP Praxis exam prep book and answered practice questions.
Do you feel that your academic program adequately prepared you for the exam? Did you feel ready to start work after school?
AC: Absolutely. All of the subject material on the test was information I had already covered in school. And I can’t say enough good things about the internship and externship experiences.
MK: Yes, I felt that my academic program — especially the clinical placements — helped me to prepare for the exam. I did feel that reviewing the material before taking the exam was beneficial in my case though, so I would recommend that others do the same. As for starting my career, I was nervous but felt that it was manageable given the support that was available from my colleagues (S-LP and otherwise), and I knew I could always look up the information if I didn’t know something.
What advice do you have for others who are preparing to write the exam?
AC: The schooling at Dalhousie was fantastic and I really felt like my professors gave me what I needed to succeed on the exam. My advice to others getting ready to write the audiology exam comes down to this: you shouldn’t be worried going in. You’ve been living, breathing and studying audiology for at least two or three years. To be honest, I didn’t feel good when I came out of the exam. I was tired and focusing on the things I had missed. I didn’t feel like I nailed it, which shows that we tend to focus on the things that didn’t go so well.
MK: Relax and prepare well. Trust in your well-developed test-taking skills!
What value do you see in maintaining your clinical certification?
AC: I needed it to get my job, but besides that, it’s a great way to stay up-to-date in audiology. It encourages you to get involved and keeps giving me a reason to seek out professional development opportunities. I really like education experiences where you get to network and meet audiologists from other parts of the country, because we can learn from each other.
MK: I like that it gives me more mobility in looking for S-LP positions across Canada and internationally. Additionally, it shows that I meet the highest professional standard of practice available in Canada, which I feel gives me more credibility when interacting with other professionals, the people I serve and potential employers.
Where are you working now? How does it compare to the career you envisioned for yourself?
AC: I’m currently working at the Upper River Valley Hospital, which is a little hospital in Woodstock, N.B. I couldn’t ask for a better position in audiology. I am the sole audiologist here and, although I didn’t see myself going somewhere where I would be working alone, my school program really made me feel prepared and confident enough to do it. I’m connected to the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton and so I talk to the audiologists there weekly about cases, and that’s been a good resource. As far as I know they haven’t started screening my phone calls.
One of the nice things about working in a smaller hospital setting is the ability to get involved in other departments and to learn about different kinds of therapy, which is something that likely wouldn’t be as easy in a larger hospital. I have a very supportive manager, who is fantastic, and my colleagues in Fredericton and in the Upper River Valley Hospital are fantastic too. I really can’t say enough good things about them.
MK: I’m currently working in an acute care S-LP position at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, Alberta. I had always envisioned myself working with adults with acquired language, motor speech, cognitive-communication and/or swallowing disorders so this position has been ideal. I’m lucky that I get to learn so much from my S-LP colleagues, the other medical and allied health staff I work with and my patients every day!