Back in graduate school, I used to think I did a lot of writing. Writing notes for class, working on short essays and term papers here and there, writing lesson plans for clinic (and then, of course, rewriting them) and then writing SOAP notes after sessions. I remember hearing at some point that I should get used to all the paperwork, because it would become a big part of my life, but like any good graduate student, I laughed it off and instead imagined a glamorous, paperwork-free career ahead of me. It's now pushing two years since I graduated with my Master's degree, and I've discovered that writing is not only a big part of what I do, it's a really huge part. Everything we do, it seems, requires documention.
Can this be overwhelming? Absolutely. Is it necessary for us to do all this writing? I've come to believe that, yes, it is vital to what we do. I also believe that good writing applies to any setting we find ourselves.
So who benefits from all this writing?
As an acute care SLP, my caseload varies significantly from day to day. I do a lot of assessments, and sometimes only work with patients one or two times before they get discharged. Other times, I work with a patient one day, then won't be able to see that same patient for another day or two. Having good notes about each encounter re-orients me to each patient, and serves to assist a memory that is greatly overwhelmed with memories of sessions and evaluations.
My fellow SLPs who work in outpatient and skilled settings can use notes to track session objectives and activities, and maintain progress. The same goes for private practice and educational clinicians.
Our patients/clients do.
They may never read them, but should services need to be transferred to another clinician or location for any reason, good documentation can help that new clinician pick up therapy where they left off. It's a win for both the client and clinician.
In my case, I work regularly with doctors, and they rely on my notes for monitoring patient status and discharge planning.
The list goes on.
Over the last few months, I grew curious about just how much I actually write on a daily basis. I've taken to writing my notes in Microsoft Word (not my first choice for word processing software, but the only one available on my work PC, unfortunately), and have taken note at the end of each day of the total word count.
On an average day in February, I wrote somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000 words. In March, I noticed that that number had risen to closer to 1,500 words. Doing some rough calculations, that breaks down as follows.
- Words per day: 1,500
- Words per week: 7,500
- Words per month: 30,000
This means that, in the space of less than two months, I have written enough words to fit a novel that satisfies the constraints of National Novel Writing Month.
All this writing is tiring, certainly, and sometimes when I try to write a blog post here, I find I'm worn out and unable to do so. It's the nature of the beast, however as I have gotten more accustomed to New Job, I have found that writing is slowly getting easier.
I have embraced clinical writing, and with time have noticed that it steadily improves along with my clinical skills.
This is a good thing, and gives me hope, because there is much still that I want to do. I just have to remember to be patient and let things happen in good time.