Extreme career change almost complete for Speech Pathology student

After more than seven years of study, Speech Pathology student Catherine McLean is on the cusp of launching the career change she’s worked hard to achieve.

Prior to returning to study, Catherine worked in finance in Melbourne before her job was made redundant and she moved to Bendigo with her husband and baby. (She now has three children.)

“It was a good time to have a career change,” she says. “I wanted to work somewhere where I could make a difference, rather than working for money. I wanted another reason to go to work.”

Here, the new Bendigo Hospital was being built, which inspired Catherine to enrol in an allied health assistance course at TAFE. “It was a way to dip my toe into education and I really enjoyed it,” she says.

After that course Catherine enrolled in a Diploma of Health Sciences at La Trobe, then transferred to Speech Pathology. While at TAFE she’d she met a stroke victim who’d sparked her interest in the field.

“The person could hear words and say them back, but they couldn’t write the words. I was so amazed by it, and it stuck with me … Speech Pathology is about our ability to express ourselves and comprehend what others are saying. It’s about memory and cognition – not just speech.”

Catherine is currently on placement with Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation services, based at the Bendigo Hospital. Earlier this year she was on the acute ward for nine weeks, and prior to that, with a regional school. The placements have demonstrated the breadth of a speech pathologist’s role.

“It’s been a really good learning opportunity where I’ve been able to put a lot of the theory I’ve learnt into practice. It’s not until you get into the workplace that you realise – that’s why I needed to know that!”

After studying part-time while being a mum to three young children, Catherine says she can now see the “light at the end of the tunnel”, which is qualification.

“It’s been a challenge,” she says. “Luckily, I have the support of my family. Without that I don’t know how I would do it, but in the same breath they motivate me and keep me going. If I’m going to spend time away from them, I’m going to work hard and make it work.

“I want to get a generalist role to experience as much as I can, working with children and adults, on communication and swallowing. But there’s so many different areas of practice you can go into.”

All the best to Catherine and all our Speech Pathology students and alumni this week.

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