Merriam-Webster defines “service” as “the occupation or function of serving” or “the work performed by one that serves”.
By that definition, we could say speech-language pathology is a field of service. The work I do is not for me. It is for someone else.
Yet at one of the sessions I attended there were some negative comments about professors having to participate in service activities (or joy for not having to participate in service activities). It totally struck me and distracted me the rest of the session.
Before we move forward, let’s take a look at a definition of service. When people working in a university talk about service, they are usually talking about one of the following:
- service of the profession – reviewing manuscripts, leadership in professional organizations, etc.
- university service – committee participation, faculty senate, etc.
- extracurricular university service – involvement in student groups
The common argument is service takes professors away from teaching and research, which I can understand. (These are general observations; not all professors are the same.) But as someone who formally worked in student affairs (which is service heavy), I can see the other side. Service is important to universities and our professions.
As a practicing SLP, I can see so many reasons to participate in service activities. For as long as I can remember, I have had involvement in multiple service activities in, around, and outside my profession. I have been in a far number of conversations with therapists who want “someone” to do “something”, but they don’t want to get involved (for various factors). We need to be involved.
So why is service important to clinical and academic SLPs?
- You benefit. I learn so much from my service outside of our profession. I am on the board of directors for a co-op insurance company and I am learning so much about insurance regulation and lack of medical resources in the rural areas of my state (just two examples). Participating in service is a great way to connect with people who are want to make things happen.
- You can influence change. This is huge. Many of us want changes to caseloads in the schools, when and if we receive referrals, physician understanding of language and swallowing disorders, or productivity pressures in healthcare. Getting involved in service can put you into a position where you have influence on an organization or association that will help you accomplish goals. Imagine the possibilities of working with other people with big ideas. Together, we’re unstoppable!
- Service helps resolve our public relations problem. How many of us have ever told someone we are an SLP and they immediately understand what we do? Few and far between, right? Service outside of or around (e.g. other health care professionals) our profession helps us share the wonderful world of SLP with other professionals and people of influence.
I encourage you to find a service opportunity. There are so many ways to get involved. Here are a few. You may want to look for opportunities with the following organizations:
- ASHA – Call for nominations is currently open. There are also many ways to volunteer or participate in committees.
- Your state association has many similar opportunities. Join and get involved.
- Universities aren’t just for professors. Look for opportunities to get involved as an alum. Wish you had XYZ training in school, advocate for it, so the next generation does.
- State, city, and county associations and associations (e.g. Alzheimer’s Association, County Agency on Aging, etc.) are great ways to provide service around and outside our profession. Look for ways to influence how we help underserved populations (rural, low income, etc.).
- Look within your organization for opportunities on committees. Perhaps your building is going to be renovating soon; get involved so you can advocate for the environments that would help all patients. Join the falls committee. Make change from the inside.
Service isn’t something that happens “over there” by someone else. Service should happen wherever you are. It doesn’t have to be “big”; you just have to do it in a big way.
See other 2014 ASHA Convention related blog posts.