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How to Use Evidence to Become a Better SLP

We have so many options available to us to continue learning and become better SLPs. It’s exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep up with it all. When I was taking Evidence-Based Practice in grad school, the professor taught us about the levels of evidence (and how to evaluate the evidence and use it to guide therapeutic decision making), how to thoroughly search a database, and to consult a variety of sources (i.e., not just ASHA journals). That sounds like an awful lot to put on our already overflowing plates as school-based SLPs!

Struggling to keep up with it all? Read about this SLP's "real life" approach to evidence-based practice.

In the “real world” of an SLP, there are many hurdles to finding evidence for everything we do. Time and access to journals are two huge factors that come to mind! However, I do try my best to implement to implement this piece of the EBP triangle, since it is an important component. I want to be the best SLP that I can be while setting reasonable expectations. I set goals for myself to stay informed and knowledgeable about best practice. It’s definitely not perfect, but my current “system” keeps me inspired and motivated to continue learning and improving as an SLP. Here’s what I came up with…

Getting Started

These are quick and easy resources that I check on a regular basis. Some people may not consider this to be “professional development,” but I have learned so much from these tools. It can be very lonely as an SLP, and I so appreciate the opportunity to collaborate and talk about our field with other professionals.

I jot down ideas or questions that come up in Evernote. I come back to this when I’m picking my “topic for the month.” Read more below!

Monthly Research

I set a goal to research at least one topic a month. The topic is often influenced by a student on my caseload or something that was mentioned in a group/blog post. I write my topic on a sticky note and keep it on my desk. I set aside a few times over the course of the month to research that topic. Here are my two “go to” resources:

  • Journal Articles: I regularly search through the journals on ASHA.org when I’m working on my “question of the month.” They have a lot of relevant articles, but I remember my graduate school professor telling me to not only rely on them. I’m not exactly keen on spending $15 for one article, but I will if I absolutely need it. I often save the abstract and head to the university library to look at a handful of articles at a time.
  • SpeechPathology.com ($99/year): I also have found that SpeechPathology.com (affiliate link) has some great presentations too. I get to learn from experts in the field, who often help me dig through the research more quickly than I would on my own. (I check the citations if I decide I want to learn more.) I also earn CEU credits at the same time. Since I complete about one lecture a month, I don’t have to work about CEUs!

I keep all of my notes in an Evernote folder. (This makes it easy to reference them later, although a notebook or Word document would work too!) Because I often come up with my “topics” with a particular student in mind, it’s really easy to make the articles/presentations relevant. I  include a section to jot down any practical applications of the research, which helps me use what I learned with my students. I still have a long way to go, but–by taking a bite-size piece every month–I’m able to keep learning and improving.

Although that is my general process, I love going to conferences and take advantage of other free resources. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Conferences
    • I love attending my state conference.
    • Although the ASHA conferences are a splurge, they offer presentations on so many amazing topics. It’s a great opportunity to connect with other SLPs.
    • It depends on the state, but some areas offer free (or inexpensive) conferences. For example, my previous Educational Service District offered amazing AAC conferences. Connect with your local SLPs to see what options are available in your area!
  • Free Options
    • LeadersProject offers free CEU courses. Their modules and free resources are very helpful, especially if you’re wanting to step up your evaluation game.

Tell us about your tips for keeping up with the evidence! Leave a comment below.

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