#WhereWeWork Teletherapist Feature – SLP Natalya
When you work in healthcare, you have to have a true passion for others. No matter how much experience you have, what location you’re in, or what your personal life is like – you have to truly love what you do in order to provide the best service. This can include learning a new skill, arranging a schedule you’ve never managed before, or taking time out of your personal life to get to know your students.
Instead of just focusing on one, all three of these actions describe one of our tele-speech pathologists, Natalya L. Her story is so touching that we couldn’t help but share it in our #WhereWeWork series!
Let’s start at the beginning. Natalya had heard of, but never thought of doing teletherapy until she connected with VocoVision. Her background in speech pathology started with supporting an elementary population in Utah. She then ventured to Rhode Island and worked in early intervention, where she traveled across the entire state of Rhode Island to see all the kiddos on her caseload. Though she loved it, it was a lot of driving – 50 to 200 miles a day! After her husband received a job offer in upstate New York, Natalya wondered what she would do and started looking for early intervention positions again. Shortly after, she started feeling a little under the weather. She soon discovered a little one was on the way! Their family was blessed with a sweet baby boy, Maxwell.
In the fall of 2016, once Maxwell was around daycare-age, Natalya was ready to get back into work. However, she was worried about being about to balance her new mom life with her work life and thought about all the driving she did in early intervention. She was hesitant to jump back into a job where she’d be driving most of the day.
That’s when Voco came in. Natalya connected with Jawon, one of the recruiters on the Voco team, about the wonderful world of telepractice. Amazingly, it made a lot of sense to her – many kids these days use technology on a daily basis, so why not integrate it into their therapy sessions?! She also realized how easy it would be to take Maxwell to and from daycare if she worked from home!
Natalya decided to move forward with teletherapy and started the licensure process in both New York and New Mexico, as therapists must be licensed in their home state along with the state of the school district they are supporting. She chose New Mexico as Jawon explained the large need for teletherapists in the state, along with Voco’s strong relationships with school districts in the area. At the time, one of Voco’s school district partners in New Mexico had a teletherapy position open with an elementary population, which Natalya felt very comfortable with. She also loved the idea of working on a different time zone, so she could have plenty of time to spend with her son before starting work. Though the licensure process took a little longer than expected – both New York and New Mexico require 2 licenses each, so she had to apply for 4 total – Jawon was supportive along the way, and Natalya was patient. Constant communication and updates from both sides were what gave their working relationship a great start!
Once all of Natalya’s licenses were in place, she was ready to get started. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until a quick change of the position happened. It turns out the school district needed a therapist for an adult transition class. The support was there, but Natalya was worried she didn’t have enough experience with this population to succeed. She was starting to wonder if this was still a good idea, until Jawon’s voice of reason chimed in. Jawon encouraged Natalya to stick with it, and even set up a virtual meeting with the transition class teachers.
This meeting set the tone for the rest of the school year, because, as Natalya said, it was AMAZING! The teacher and rest of the staff at the school were so excited for Natalya to start, ensured they be available for anything she needed, and asked what she needed from them in order to work successfully.
After the meeting relieved her nerves a bit, Natalya decided to move forward and jumped right in! Because she was starting mid-semester, the majority of the students needed makeup sessions. When most therapists hear this, they may get a bit stressed. Not Natalya! It actually worked out very well to arrange sessions via teletherapy, especially between different time zones.
She and the students loved meeting through technology. Natalya says, “communicating on the internet is real life. Teletherapy is all about functional communication. The students have plenty of face-to-face interaction, so the 30-60 minutes a week via teletherapy is just perfect.”
Though working as a teletherapist is flexible, that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be slight changes throughout the school year. A 20-student high school caseload was additionally assigned to Natalya when spring semester began, which was a little tough to squeeze in because of the school’s block scheduling. However, the school showed just as much support as they did the beginning, and she connected with a mentor, who graciously helped her with scheduling sessions. This mentor went above and beyond, even making herself available via text so she could pull a student from class when Natalya needed. It was as if Natalya was really there in person working with these students, based on the support she received from the school staff.
Fast forward to the end of the school year, and to several of Natalya’s students graduating. She came up with an idea on her own and consulted with her husband, Andrew. Back when they married, they made a deal to visit all 50 states within the first 10 years of their marriage. They’d already visited 13 states before Maxwell, so they were ready to get back at it! Because Maxwell was healthy, happy, and old enough to travel, Natalya started making a plan for their next out-of-state trip. She and her husband Andrew decided to fly to New Mexico (along with Maxwell) as a double whammy – this would cross off one state from their 50-state adventure, and she would finally be able to meet her students and the school staff in person!
As much as she wanted to keep it a surprise, she and the school staff thought it might be best to give the students a heads up. They were, as you can guess, more than thrilled to meet their awesome therapist in person!
Accommodated is an understatement of how Natalya, Andrew, & Maxwell felt from start to finish on their trip to New Mexico. One of the teachers opened up his home to them, “Airbnb” style, which was much more comfortable for Maxwell versus a hotel. They were provided with a plethora of recommendations for sightseeing, restaurants, and landmarks.
The timing was perfect for their visit – between being able to see several of her students graduate to meeting the teachers, Natalya and her family were also welcomed into the high school’s special education family picnic, where she connected with several of her students’ family members.
Their visit to Santa Fe opened up Natalya’s eyes to a completely different atmosphere than she was used to. She started to piece things together, as many of her students weren’t familiar with certain plants, trees, or even house structures that are common in Rhode Island and New York. Because she was able to see the city in person, she’ll now have more content to review in sessions in the future with her students.
Where is she now? Enjoying her summer, of course! And also counting down the days until she can see her students again – via teletherapy, that is. You guessed it – the school district already welcomed her back for another school year, and – fingers crossed – she’ll be able to support some of the same students again!
Are you as passionate as Natalya? Are you looking for a change in your career that gives you more time at home with your family, but also is just as fulfilling as an onsite speech therapy position? Check out our latest teletherapy opportunities right here!