Natalie Post, M.S., CCC-SLP, lead clinician, joined the PL Care Network in 2014. We interviewed her about the roots of her passion for speech language therapy and asked her to tell us a little about her experience transitioning to teletherapy.
I was born in Pensacola, Florida. When I was in high school, we moved to Colorado. We were very involved in the church. Our church college was in Nampa, Idaho, a little town outside of Boise, which is where I went for my undergrad. After that I went across the state to Idaho State University, in Pocatello, for my Master’s degree. My family has moved all my life—every 2-3 years we’ve moved—so it’s just normal for me to hop all over. After grad school, I did my Clinical Fellowship Year at Pocatello Regional Medical Center Rehab. After a year, I moved to North Carolina and lived there for three years. From there I moved to Atlanta which is where I call “home” because I lived there the longest. I lived there for 17 years. I stayed here because I didn’t want to move my daughter out of her school district. I wanted her to have a consistent home, school, and friendships which I didn’t have. I stayed there until she graduated from high school. My husband started a new job with Marriott around the same time my daughter went off to college. Since we are empty nesters, we have been hopping around ever since. We move about every year or year and a half. Right now we live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
My big passion is photography. I also enjoy bowling, sewing, and quilting. With my husband working for Marriott, most of the places we live are resort areas so we’re always near the coast and by the water. I grew up in Florida so I am a water baby and love to do anything water related.
What inspired you to become an SLP?
My family is heavily into the helping professions. I have nurses, EMTs, fire fighters, and police all through my family. My mom was an RN so I grew up hearing all the medicalese. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, then I hit calculus and realized I wasn’t going to make it. I went into my adviser and I told him that pre-med is not going to work for me. I loved writing poems and short stories so I started the next semester as an English major. That was also not for me. So I went back to him the next semester and he suggested that we put my love of science together with my love of English and here we are. I have all the neuroanatomy with all the english and language things and it fits me perfectly.
I actually started out working with adults. I worked only in the rehab centers and nursing facilities. I’ve been doing this since 1987. I’d worked with one kiddo at our clinic because the therapist was out sick. When we moved to Atlanta, I started working at a private clinic. And I loved it. I was working with the little, little guys, birth to three, and worked my way up to the school-age kiddos.
What made you want to be a teletherapist with PL?
I was attracted by the flexibility that I can work from anywhere. When I joined PL, my husband’s job required 100% travel and PL made it easy to go with him. The travel was all around Florida and the Caribbean so I didn’t want to miss out on that! He had that traveling position for about 2 years. We moved out of New Jersey, ditched all our belongings, pared down to 4 suitcases, and lived in resorts for two years. As long as I had my computer, I could work.
What do you enjoy about being a provider with PL?
I love the flexibility of being able to do some things at home, that with a typical job, would have to wait until the end of the day or the weekend. I have found that working from home means I rarely get sick. Also…the microwave is always clean and no one eats my lunch out of the fridge! LOL!
What were you most surprised about when you made the transition to be a teletherapist?
I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting sitting all day can be! I was used to moving/walking up and down school hallways every 30 minutes and then changed to sitting full time. It was rough! My husband is very handy. He made me something that looks like a pulpit that I can sit on top of my desk and stand up. That has really helped. And I finally broke down and invested in a decent desk chair.
What do you find most challenging about being a teletherapist?
I think it is challenging to work with the little guys because I am so used to using manipulatives and you can’t do that as much with the platform. I also miss the physical interaction from the kids—especially the preschool kids. I know when I was based in brick and mortar schools we would attend the little programs they would do or the parties they would have. I also miss the camaraderie of the other teachers/therapists. I have found some workarounds. We have some fun little games on the platform. When I work in the virtual schools, and I am in their actual home, I can work directly with the parent by instructing them in techniques to use to increase language production or sounds.
How do you build relationships with the onsite staff you are working with? Strategies you use?
I don’t communicate as much with the teachers as I do with the primary support person (onsite support person). I’m a chatty Cathy in developing relationships with my PSPs. I will shoot them a text and they’ll communicate back. Over time you develop a friendship. I have two really good friends who are PSPs.
What is your current caseload like?
I have about 60 students in my caseload from a self-contained preschool all the way up to high school. I work in Georgia and Idaho.
Could you walk us through your daily routine? A “day in the life of a PL therapist” if you will?
I am an early riser 4:30/5:00-ish. I get up and workout. I typically catch up on emails and paperwork once I grab a cup of coffee. My guilty pleasure is watching the first 30 minutes to an hour of the Today show. I am showered and ready to go for therapy at 8:00 or 9:00. Depending on the day, I am done with students from around 3:00 to 4:00. I follow up on emails after that and then start the end-of-the-day things. Throughout the day, and to get up from my chair and sitting so much, I will take the pup on a quick walk or a run, do some laundry, etc. My husband usually doesn’t get home til 7 or 7:30. We’ll sit down and eat dinner. Then we’ll relax after dinner and we’re usually in bed by 10:00.
What advice would you give an SLP considering a transition to teletherapy?
Create clear boundaries for your time. I found that when I started this it could be way more of a 24/7 job than I wanted it to be. You’d think that having school hours it wouldn’t be that way, but because of the time difference, I found I was getting emails at 5 pm their time, but it was 8 pm my time. And I would be tempted to just open up an email quickly and then it would be an hour later. I realized I have to be stingy with my “me” time because I don’t have a lot of it. All of our platform is on Google Chrome, so now I only use the Chrome browser for work, and I use the Safari browser for personal use. So when I’m done with my day, I switch to Safari and nothing pops up from work. Also, get a good desk chair.
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