Jessica Keen, M.S., CCC-SLP, joined the PresenceLearning team in 2011 after she found out she was moving to St. Maarten in the Caribbean for her husband’s medical school training. Since living in St. Maarten, she’s moved 7 different times and lived in 5 different states. She has two children, ages 4 and 2, and lives in New Orleans today.
Can you tell us a little about where you’re from, and what you like to do when you’re not working?
I am originally from Cleveland, a small town in the North Western region of Mississippi called the Mississippi Delta. I lived there my whole life until I went to college. And then I met my husband at college in Oxford, Mississippi at the University of Mississippi. I loved it there and went to grad school there also. Then my husband got into medical school in the Caribbean. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my job as a speech therapist because the more I found out about speech therapy in the Caribbean, they didn’t really have speech therapists. That’s how I got into PresenceLearning.
Fast forward to today, I am a mom. I have two little boys. My oldest just turned 4 and my youngest is turning 2 soon. We have lived all over with my husband’s job. We are now currently in New Orleans. We’ve been here for about a year. Besides being a mom, I love to go to the gym and exercise, I love to read books, and I love to listen to music.
What inspired you to become an SLP?
I had speech therapy when I was little and I had forgotten about it. It wasn’t something I really thought about. When I first got to college in 2003, I thought I wanted to be a news reporter. I was a journalism major. I wasn’t really sure if that was the right thing for me. My dad encouraged me to take an aptitude test at the career center at my college. I did it! It took four or five hours. The first job it recommended for me was a banker which I thought was hilarious. My second job said either PT, OT, or Speech. And I realized, “Oh, speech! I had that when I was little!” I thought about it. I had friends whose moms were speech therapists. I called one of them and she said, “Oh, you’re going to love it. You’d be great. Just take the intro class. I promise you’ll never go back.” And she was right. So that’s how I got into it. It has been such a big blessing. I love it. I recommend it to anybody who says they don’t know what they want to do. I ask them, “Do you like helping people, do you like working with children? If so, you can’t go wrong with it. It’s great.”
I changed my major to Communicative Disorders…now it’s Communicative Sciences and Disorders, or CSD. I went on to get my master’s degree at the University of Mississippi. I applied all over but I just loved “Ole Miss.” I wanted to stay. And my boyfriend, now my husband, was there. I started working straight out of grad school. I did early intervention for a program called Project Run for the state of Mississippi—for birth to 3. Then I got engaged and my husband was going to the Caribbean. That’s when I started working with PL in 2011.
Could you walk us through your daily routine? A “day in the life of a PL therapist” if you will?
It depends on what my husband’s work schedule is…since he’s still in his medical training, depending on which rotation he’s on, our lives fluctuate. So one month he’ll be on nights. If it’s a normal month and my husband is not on nights, my boys wake up around 7. I wake up when they wake up–I drink coffee, fix breakfast. I get them ready, out of their PJs, and we watch cartoons. My sister-in-law takes care of the boys while I work. She has recently gone back to school to do speech therapy. I told her how wonderful it was! She goes to school 2 days a week, so she comes the other 3 days and takes care of the boys. That’s been huge. It’s nice that it’s someone I know and family. She comes and does what I do with them while I am in therapy. I start therapy at 8 and go til 9:30 am. I try to have my sessions back to back because I want to work as much as possible while she’s here. And then at 9:30 I stop and take my 4-year-old to preschool. And then I come home and pick back up again.
Sometimes I get lunch and sometimes not. Usually I have some kind of absence or no show where I can grab something really fast. If not, I have a break at 1:30 when I go pick up my son and I can gobble something really quickly and go get him. I start again at 2 and I usually go until 4:30 or 5 depending on if there are any absences. Then I go upstairs with the kids, and she leaves. I try to workout at the gym if it’s not too late. Then I start the evening routine, bath time, story time, all of that. It’s been great being able to be here.
This year my 4-year-old will go to “4-K school” which is 8 am to 3 pm, and my 2-year-old will go to preschool. So then I won’t have a babysitter. I am planning to just work while they are at school. It’s great that PL is there with me. I don’t have to make any huge changes. After I had my second, I wasn’t really sure how it was going to be with 2 kids. PL was great when I had to take time out for the birth of my second child. I was able to take the time I needed before returning to work. When I was finally ready to start again, they let me slowly ease back into it. They were really understanding and great about all of that.
Can you tell us about your caseload?
About 3 or 4 years ago, I held the most state licenses. Today I am licensed in 5 states—California, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and S. Carolina. I used to also have Tennessee and Oklahoma. This school year I’ve been working in southern Mississippi, South Carolina, and California. I work 3 full days a week this year. I work 8-5 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 7:30 to 4:30 on Fridays. So I work about 24 hours…it fluctuates depending on absences and no shows.
Have you been able to flex your schedule based on your family needs?
I first took the job with PL out of the need to move with my husband. We lived in the Caribbean, then in Atlanta, a year in New York, a year in Baton Rouge, then Augusta, Georgia for 4 years, now I am here in New Orleans. It’s been great to have that. No matter where we were, I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to work, what I was going to do. And then after I had kids I really appreciated it because it’s so nice that I can be here while they’re here. I can pay a babysitter to help take care of them. It’s really great to pop in and out whenever I need to and to see them throughout the day. It’s been huge, just as a mom, from that standpoint. I have my day scheduled around my 4-year-old so I can take him and pick him up from preschool so I still get to do the big important things and be there when I need to. So it’s great.
What were you most surprised about when you made the transition to be a teletherapist?
I was surprised that not many people had heard of it or knew what it was. People still find it hard to believe that I am a speech-language pathologist “on the computer.”
What do you find most challenging about being a teletherapist?
It’s been challenging not having coworkers that I can see, talk with, and pick their brains daily.
Have you found any tools or workarounds for this challenge?
I don’t feel like I struggle with it as much any more. I think it’s just that I am a social person and because we have moved so much, I’ve missed out on that aspect of adult life—like having friends. As you get to be an adult, that’s how you make your friends. It’s from your workplace.
But I don’t feel like if I have a question workwise that I’m not going to have it answered, because it’s so great with our email system, whatever school I am working at I always email those providers. I don’t feel like it hurts us at all professionally. It’s just a social thing…like having coworkers to chit chat with…like girlfriends.
What is one piece of advice you would offer a therapist considering making the transition to telepractice?
I would say one of the hardest things is you have to be your own boss. So if you’re not as organized, you have to stay on top of yourself and get all of your documentation done and make sure you have everything finished because you don’t have a boss right there telling you you need to do this, asking you have you done this?
You really have to be good about doing it. It takes a certain personality to get it done. So if you know those are your weaknesses, that’s important—to say on top of yourself. It sounds good to work remotely, but if you’re not staying on top of it, you can get really behind really quickly.
What are some of the tools you use to keep yourself on track?
I used to make a binder every year. I’ve graduated to legal pads. I like to have everything written. I have to write things down because there’s so much to remember. I have to see it. I have calendars all around me, like the different school calendars. I’m trusting the platform more and more, so I am starting to try to write down less and do most of my documentation on the platform. I used to write down everything, now I just write down what we did in therapy.
Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve really enjoyed PresenceLearning. I would never have thought I’d still be here 8 years later but it’s still wonderful. I have really enjoyed it.
Are you interested in joining the PL Care Network? Visit our Provider page to submit your application today!