The Speech-Language Pathologist in a Rehab Leadership Role

Brought to you by Encompass Health

Preparing for a Leadership Role in Inpatient Rehab

In the inpatient rehabilitation setting, you will utilize a multidisciplinary approach to care and leadership. As director of therapy operations at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Concord, I oversee not only speech language pathologists (SLPs), but also occupational and physical therapy professionals, while working closely with hospital leadership. If working in a leadership role in the inpatient rehabilitation environment sounds like something you’d like to aspire to, the following are some ideas to help you prepare:

Start small. Take on additional responsibilities within your setting. Volunteer to take on tasks that will expand your knowledge and demonstrate your interest in professional growth to your corporation’s leadership.

Learn from your peers. Realize that you don’t necessarily have to be a physical or occupational therapist to lead that discipline. It is important to understand the Standards of Practice and develop a basic understanding for each specialty, but remember that you are inspiring them to work utilizing their license, not telling them how to perform their job.

Study as you go. Pursue continuing education in the subjects of leadership, financial management, and regulatory requirements. There are so many resources available that will help you advance your knowledge and skill levels in each of these critical areas.

Map out your plan. Determine your own vision for your professional future then develop a strategic plan. Outline your steps in smaller increments. This process will allow you to feel the satisfaction of achievements along the way and inspire you to remain on track with the goals you have set for yourself.

Share your goals with others. Many companies have career development tracts and programming designed to develop leaders within the organization. Reach out to your supervisor or human resources department staff to seek out these opportunities for growth. Don’t let opportunity pass you by!

Be patient. The road to leadership is a journey. As you progress, you will build on the skills you have developed. This will build your confidence and will be evident to the team you endeavor to lead—and the executive team you strive to impress.

My journey as a speech-language pathologist and now director of therapy operations has led me along diverse and interesting paths.

As I have moved into more complex management roles throughout my career, the skills that I utilized in my past positions contributed to my accomplishments in subsequent endeavors. I found that, as a clinician drawn to a career as a speech-language pathologist, I already had learned many of the skills needed to be an exemplary leader. Some of those include:

  • Problem-solving to help team members generate solutions and motivate them to devise and implement a plan for improvement.
  • Determining the most appropriate type of positive reinforcement for a team to bring about change.
  • Effectively communicating the organization’s mission, vision, and strategic plan.
  • Prioritizing tasks that team members need to accomplish for the good of the organization and the patients they serve.
  • Approaching a management position from the standpoint of servant leadership.
  • Empowering a team in clinical growth and development.
  • Demonstrating empathy toward team members and encouraging them to do the same with their peers and patients.

All these qualities are fundamental to our chosen profession and will serve you well as you move into a leadership position in an inpatient rehabilitation setting.

About the Author

Karen Newpower, M.A., CCC-SLP, is the director of therapy operations at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Concord in New Hampshire. She has spent her 25-plus year career working in a variety of settings, including acute hospital, outpatient, home health, skilled nursing, and, of course, inpatient rehabilitation. Her career focus as a speech-language pathologist has been to utilize clinical education combined with technological advances in the field to help her patients reach their utmost potential and personal goals.

About Encompass Health

Encompass Health is the nation’s leading provider of inpatient rehabilitation, with more than 160 hospitals in 37 states and Puerto Rico. We strive to exceed expectations as we serve our patients and communities through customized rehabilitation. Our care teams are committed to achieving the best possible outcomes to get our patients back to what matters most to them.