Part One
For healthcare workers who have now spent a portion of their careers working through the nightmare of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is something they will never forget. For those workers just entering into the workforce, the pandemic has set the tone for the remainder of their careers.

This is the first story of 3 remarkable Speech-Language Pathologists who prior to the pandemic were anticipating the beginning of their respective careers. Their 2020 began with hope, optimism, and enthusiasm typical of the final year of a 6-year marathon required to become a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist. These new Speech-Language Pathologists, known as Clinical Fellows, were subsequently thrown into the battle in the epicenter of a pandemic, unlike anything we have ever seen.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Savannah Sabu was completing her master’s at Seton Hall University when the world of higher education was halted in March 2020. Students were sent home from campus and in-person externships were replaced with unanswered questions about their respective futures. After an online graduation ceremony, Savannah was able to complete her Praxis in July and eventually begin her new position with Language Fundamentals in December.

According to Sabu, “On my first day, we ripped the Band-Aid. I saw a variety of complicated patients including those with CVAs, tracheostomy, aphasia, and cancer of the head and neck. It was a wide range to start & overwhelming at the same time because there was so much to learn.”

One of the many challenges she faced along the way was wearing full PPE while treating geriatric patients with hearing issues. “Wearing an isolation gown, goggles, and masks sure made it challenging.” She learned to use technology and other visual aids to help provide therapy and make a positive impact on her patients.

Another challenge Savannah faced was treating patients who were making gains in therapy then contracted Covid. According to Language Fundamentals Regional Manager, Jaime Faitlowicz, MS CCC-SLP, “Everyone was learning and dealing with these issues for the first time. What has impressed me about Savannah is her desire to learn. She brings the philosophy ‘If I don’t know, I will learn.’ with her each and every day.”

Faitlowicz went on to say, “All medical professionals were learning how to navigate the disease throughout the pandemic, inclusive of both new and experienced SLPs. What we were finding with patients that were Covid-Positive, and how they were directly impacted in relation to our scope of practice, was a learning curve for everyone. Many new medical professionals were scared of the unknown, rightfully so, but Savannah had impressed me with her dedication to the field, stating, “What I don’t know, I will learn.”

Now several months into her journey as a medical Speech-Language Pathologist, Sabu is grateful for her newfound experience. “It has forced me to do a lot of on-the-fly thinking and get around roadblocks. There is always something to learn.”

When asked about her advice to the Class of 2021, she wishes that in graduate school there was as much emphasis on documentation and clinical writing as in-person treatment skills. “On top of learning how to treat complex patients, we have to learn documentation.”
These days Savannah works closely with her SNF teammates and her colleagues at Language Fundamentals. The “new normal” is starting to feel like just another day. Each day the SNF industry and brave healthcare workers like Savannah adapt to the realities of the lingering impact of the Covid pandemic.

Next week, we will meet the 2nd member of this group and hear her amazing story.