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New Hire Series: ​Preparing for an Interview in a Hospital Setting

Posted by Megan Ordway, M.A. CCC-SLP on

My first job as a CF was in a fast-paced, large regional hospital with a great reputation, high acuity of patients (Level 1 trauma center), and a large experienced inpatient rehabilitation team. I was very fortunate to land an interview there, and eventually a job. Going into the interview, I recall being nervous and feeling unsure of myself. The graduate school that I attended was wonderful, as were my professors. Unfortunately, I had a not-so-great externship with adults in a rehabilitation setting so I doubted that I knew enough to be welcomed onto such an amazing team. Looking back now, I know I did my best and it all turned out as it was meant to be (as I believe everything does), but there would definitely be some advice to the younger me to better prepare for such an interview. Some of them are clinical, some non-clinical.


Research the hospital

  • What kind of patients do they accept and what level of care are they providing? Their website may indicate if they are a trauma center, a stroke center, etc. (If they are a large hospital, you will probably see many diagnoses including TBIs, etc.)
  • What type of therapy is provided there? (Do they offer inpatient, outpatient and acute services? Is there an inpatient rehabilitation unit?)
  • How to get there and where to park? The HR department can probably provide you with instructions, but if it is in an unfamiliar area, you may even want to do a “test drive” to assure you are on time for your interview.

Clinical knowledge

  • It’s definitely good to go in prepared for answering some of the following questions. During the course of the questioning, being genuine about what you do and don’t know is very important. Here’s a new motto: “Come to your interview who you are with what you know”. With that said, maybe take a few minutes to prepare mentally for some questions like this:
  1. What is a clinical strength/weakness of yours?
  2. How do you complete a bedside swallowing evaluation? (And some of your steps may be challenged “why do you do that?”).
  3. When would you find it appropriate to order instrumental exams for swallowing?
  4. What is your experience like with instrumental swallowing exams?
  5. How would you treat a patient that has had a L MCA stroke?
  6. What is an evaluation tool that you find valuable in assessing cognition/language/speech?
  7. What would you do if you had a highly agitated patient? How do you prepare for your session?
  8. Do you have any additional certifications?
  9. What is an area of speech-language pathology that you enjoy most?
  10. What would expect from a patient with a TBI and a ___ on the Rancho scale? (know those levels)
  11. How do you determine candidacy for speech treatment?
  12. What information can you glean from a cranial nerve exam?
  13. How do you conduct an oral mech exam?

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and more specific questions could and likely would be generated by an interviewing team. Hopefully this gives you a good basis for starting to organize your thoughts in preparation. During an interview, though, you aren’t the only person answering questions. You will have an opportunity in most interviews to ask questions. Some questions to consider:


  1. Do you perform MBSS? Do you perform FEES? Is the medical staff generally in favor of completing instrumentation for the purpose of developing a treatment plan?
  2. What kind of competency will I be asked to complete in order to perform MBSS and/or FEES?
  3. What kind of mentorship will I have (for CF)? Will my supervisor be on-site and available?
  4. What are the expectations for productivity and is there a learning period/grace period upon coming in as a new hire?
  5. What is your favorite aspect of this job?
  6. What is the daily schedule like? How many patients are typically seen per day?
  7. Will I have an office space or somewhere to complete therapy and evaluations?
  8. How many therapists work in the department?
  9. Will there be any opportunities for continuing education on-site?
  10. What are your recommendations to prepare for employment here?
  11. What is the most challenging part of your job?
  12. Are there resources/materials within the department that I can use for treatment and evaluations?
  13. Do I have to provide any materials for evaluation/treatment myself?
  14. What are the hours?
  15. Will I be responsible for scheduling my own patients or is that completed by someone else?
  16. What is the relationship like between therapy disciplines?
  17. Do members of the team specialize in certain areas?
  18. How is work delegated? Are there teams that are specific to certain diagnoses?

Once again, there are many questions that you may have, that could be added to this list. It is my hope that sharing some of the pieces of information I’d want will be helpful to you.

In the hospital setting, you can be sure that you will never know everything (it is a constant state of learning, especially as a CF), but will expand your practice so much.

Skills you will gain

Of the innumerable pearls of wisdom and skills I learned in the hospital the following are some of the things I hold dear:

  • The beauty of a thorough chart review - those charts are robust. You will learn where to look for the information you want, but also learn that some information others may “skim over” will be so important. Keep your eyes moving and read, read, read!
  • The ins and outs of suctioning (with training), vitals, etc.
  • It is a unique perspective to see how multiple systems in the hospital setting work, as our work will bring us into contact with so many departments (radiology, neuro, ENTs, physical medicine departments, hospitalists, PTs, OTs, dietary), etc.
  • Levels of alertness, Glasgow coma scales, Rancho TBI scale.
  • You will have the opportunity and privilege to work with patients in very tough situations. It is both emotionally taxing at times, and rewarding. Some days will be tough, but you can be such a help to those in need and truly impact patients.
  • How to recognize emergency situations, and how to deal with them.
  • If you are fortunate, you will see state-of-the-art interventions from surgeries to life-preserving techniques that will both be new to you and amazing.
  • You will become familiar with a vast number of medical diagnoses.
  • You will get the chance to see the beautifully diverse population which we serve. This is something that in the other settings, depending on the surrounding socioeconomic factors, and specific demographics, you may not get as much. In the hospital, a need for care is universal, and usually there’s not much choice involved when you have an emergency like those that our patients may have endured.

I know I am supremely thankful for my experience, and so thankful that I had the opportunity to work at such an institution and be molded by clinicians, doctors, nurses, and others that were and are experts. I wouldn’t trade that experience and would encourage any of you to consider it as an avenue to learn and grow as a therapist. Give that interview a shot, and good luck! Download a free printable containing questions you should ask during your hospital interview here.

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