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External placement
External placements are a vital part of an SHS student's education

External Placements Vital to Students’ Development

Students in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science in the College of Applied Health Sciences expect excellent instruction in the classroom. When they venture off campus, however, is when they get a better sense of the career paths they might choose.

All SHS students are required to take part in external placements, which are essentially internships with an external organization. For some students in the master’s program for Speech-Language Pathology, external placements might begin as early as their second semester, said Noa Hannah, director of the audiology and speech-language pathology clinic in SHS. On the audiology side, said Clinical Assistant Professor Sadie Braun, students are given external placements in the summer after their first year in the four-year program.

“I think that our external placements are really the first place that our students get a sense of what audiology is like in the real world,” Braun said. “I think that’s when a lot starts to gel between what they’re learning in their academic classes and what they’re doing in clinic—that starts to come together when they get to their external placements.”

Hannah, who joined the university in 2019 and became clinic director in 2020, agreed, calling external placements “pivotal.”

“They’re pivotal in their learning because there’s only so much we can teach within the clinic,” Hannah said. “Going out on these externals is about professionalism, but … it’s really about understanding different cultures—different cultures of schools, different cultures of hospitals, different supervisory styles than what we have here at the university. So it’s pivotal in their learning how to apply their skills to new patient populations as well as new environments.”

Braun said audiology students gain experience in environments that we just can’t simulate within the SHS clinic environment.

“For example, we send them to a hearing aid manufacturer to get experience with the manufacturer side of things, or to a private practice or a big hospital so they get to see different environments audiologists can practice in and figure out where they might want to start in their first job,” she said.

Hannah said external placements give students the opportunity to deal with different patient populations, such as patients with dementia or traumatic brain injuries, or patients who have had strokes.

Braun said the external placements also help students to increase their independence and competence in using their skills.

There are also benefits for the organizations, such as hospitals and clinics, in which the students are placed.

“I think a lot of professionals just appreciate having some input in shaping the future of our field,” Braun said. “And when we send our students who have more experience, like a third-year audiology student, sometimes they can utilize that student who can be more independent to get a little bit of extra work done themselves.”

Braun said the external placements can also be a job “pipeline,” as some students are hired right out of their fourth-year placements.

For some UIUC alumni, it is a chance to give back, Hannah said.

“I have heard that they want input into teaching the next generation and I think the other thing is, people like teaching. People like sharing their knowledge … a lot of professionals enjoy that part of their profession and maybe don’t get that opportunity as often as they would like. This is a way to give back to a program that’s helped them to be successful.”

Any organization that is willing to act as an external placement for students in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science is encouraged to email Noa Hannah.

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