Unique externships give speech therapy students hands-on experience

Jennifer Miller
July 14, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Lindsay Butler-Trump, a graduate student studying communication sciences and disorders at Penn State, is spending part of her summer evaluating patients who have suffered strokes, heart attacks and other conditions that affect patients’ ability to swallow properly.

Patients who cannot swallow properly are at a greater risk for developing complications from aspiration pneumonia due to food and liquid entering their lungs.

Butler-Trump is spending the other part of her summer conducting speech and language therapy for school children who have a diagnosis of Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Down Syndrome, and others who have mild articulation issues.

Two externships -- one with Mount Nittany Medical Center and the other with the State College Area School District -- are unique opportunities for Butler-Trump to utilize the skills she gained through Penn State courses while learning from professionals in the field.

“I am learning an incredible amount from my summer externships. And, I am learning a really wide variety of skills,” Butler-Trump said.

The goal of the off-campus externship for graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is to immerse students in daily routines that allow them the opportunity to work with highly skilled professionals in the field. Externship sites are screened carefully to allow students the optimal clinical experience in a nonuniversity setting.

“We have found that our students have a more practical and realistic view of clinical and research issues after their off-campus externships,” said Stacy Dorner, externship coordinator for the department.

Graduate student Ashleigh Marrella is learning how to effectively treat patients in the areas of speech and language, swallowing, and cognition at Reading Health Rehabilitation Hospital for her summer externship.

“I am gaining experience in patient care as well as learning the importance of teamwork,” Marrella said. “I am developing skills that will allow me to be a successful speech language pathologist.”

The real world experience, Marrella said, is an extension of the instruction she receives in the classroom.

“I am in a rich learning environment with many dimensions and features,” Marrella said. “This first-hand experience in evaluation, treatment and patient care will enable me to further develop my clinical skills and professional networks and assist me in making positive and tangible difference in the lives of patients.”

Graduate student Angelique Murillo is gaining her professional experience at UPMC-Altoona Regional Hospital where she completes inpatient evaluations and treatments for swallowing, language and cognition.

“This externship has definitely allowed us to become more comfortable with interacting with patients and deciding what the next steps should be for them,” Murillo said. “Personally, this experience has completely changed my career plans. Prior to starting, I was set on working within a school setting. I now plan to seek out employment in a hospital setting.”

Each week, graduate student Kelsey Takemori takes on more responsibility at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital for her summer externship.

“There is only so much you can learn in a classroom. I consider myself to be a visual learner so the hands-on experience has really given me the opportunity to observe, ask questions, and put things into practice that I have learned and am learning,” Takemori said. “I am constantly learning something new every day.”

Takemori’s experience includes planning and executing therapy sessions for patients under the guidance of her supervisor.

“My supervisor has played and will continues to play a large role in my learning experience,” Takemori said. “With her supervision, this externship has provided and will continue to provide me with the knowledge and experience I need to use as a stepping stone to my future ahead. The experience I gain at MRH will guide me in my clinical judgment and practice for years to come as I continue to learn and grow as a clinician.”

  • Kelsey Takemori

    Penn State graduate student Kelsey Takemori spends her summer externship at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.

    IMAGE: Courtesy of Kelsey Takemori

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 20, 2015