By Trisha Ratledge
Finding Her Path in Speech-Language Pathology
When Roxanne Dominguez set her sights on becoming a speech-language pathologist in a medical facility, she knew the setting would be competitive. Turns out, it was so competitive that she needed to move nine hours away from everyone and everything she knew to begin practicing at a rehabilitation facility in Show Low, Arizona, a small community in the White Mountains.
“I knew it would be a challenge,” said Dominguez, who moved from her hometown of Escondido. “After graduation, my mom and my boyfriend helped move me out. And then it was just me and my cat in rural Arizona. The town was very small. I had elk and wild pigs in my backyard.”
Even so, the experience was invaluable. In less than a year, Dominguez was able to complete her clinical fellowship hours and then move to an SLP position in Escondido, followed by her current position at Temecula Valley Hospital.
Settled into her duties today as a full-time speech-language pathologist, her career path seems predestined. But if you had talked to undergrad Dominguez back in 2011, she was on a very different course.
As a liberal studies major and linguistics minor at CSUSM, Dominguez had planned to become a K-8 teacher, but she eventually realized she did not have the passion required for the field. As she considered new careers, a co-worker pointed her toward speech therapy, which immediately piqued her interest, especially with her undergraduate studies in linguistics.
A new course
The Speech-Language Pathology Prep program at CSUSM prepared Dominguez with the prerequisites needed to apply to graduate SLP programs, and she ultimately was admitted to the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at Cal State San Marcos. It was exactly what she had hoped for.
“I really valued that our professors were clinicians first, and it was a diverse group,” Dominguez said. “We had professors who worked with adults, with early intervention, with children with cleft lip and cleft palate, with voice disorders, and in schools. That made it a well-rounded program.
“Also, we were put into a clinical setting on day two. The curriculum was set up so we could take what we learned and use it in our clinical setting the next day. That was important to immediately apply what we learned.”
The clinicals help students determine their SLP pathway. With her past interest in teaching, Dominguez was sure she would be on track to become an SLP in a school setting. But in practice, she found that was not a good fit for her. Fortunately, there was time for her to
complete a clinical with adults in a medical setting, both inpatient and outpatient, and she loved it.
“That immediately solidified what I want to do,” she said. “That was huge.”
The rigorous MS SLP curriculum at CSUSM prepared Dominguez for her responsibilities today as a speech-language pathologist, a critical function at Temecula Valley Hospital.
“We have to have a speech therapist at the hospital seven days a week; that’s part of what makes us a Comprehensive Stroke Center,” she explained. “Because of the importance of our swallow evaluations, we have to evaluate our acute stroke patients within 24 hours of the order being received.”
Arriving by 6:30 a.m. four days a week, Dominguez works 10-hour shifts. She starts each day prioritizing what needs to get done—from evaluations to treatments—and assigns patients to SLPs. The caseload determines how many SLPs are staffed for the day, and they review charts as well as triage any incoming patients to see who needs immediate attention. Communication with nurses, doctors, dieticians and family members is essential, as is charting notes for each patient before the end of each shift.
From pathway to passion
In the midst of patient care, Dominguez has also found a way to incorporate her longtime interest in teaching by accepting a graduate student as part of an externship, which has opened new possibilities for her.
“I’m realizing how much I really enjoy teaching something I’m passionate about,” she said.
In particular, Dominguez has a growing interest in dysphagia (swallowing difficulties), which she first started exploring during graduate studies. She continued building knowledge about dysphagia during her final clinical in grad school and her clinical fellowship in Arizona.
She is also researching becoming a board-certified specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders, a designation that takes years to accomplish by demonstrating advanced competency through clinical hours, continuing education, leadership roles, scholarship activities
and/or education outreach. But she said she is motivated to move forward.
“My passion has grown for dysphagia,” she said. “I realized that this is my calling. My ultimate goal is to teach dysphagia at the college level.”
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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