The American Staffing Association has named speech language pathologist Brittney Bourgeois the 2018 National Staffing Employee of the Year.
As a proud sponsor of the award, CareerBuilder caught up with Bourgeois to discuss receiving the recognition, the career path that led her to speech language pathology, and the benefits of working in the staffing industry.
CB: Can you tell us a little bit about the Staffing Employee of the Year award and what that means to you?
BB: It really means the world to me. I can’t believe that I was even chosen. It wasn’t something that I applied for, so it was amazing to be recognized. Watching my students grow and find success both in the classroom and outside in their homes is already enough validation for me. So this award – it’s kind of like icing on the cake. It’s encouraging to know that all of my hard work and really the passion that I have for my students is not going unseen, and that people actually notice. I’m really thankful.
CB: What can you tell us about your career, the work that you do and just how you got into this particular role?
BB: Becoming a speech language pathologist – that wasn’t what I set out to do originally. I’ve always loved language – English class was always my favorite class. So, I thought “Oh, maybe I’ll major in journalism and I’ll be a writer.” So that’s what I set out to do. But I’ve also always had a passion for working with kids. I grew up babysitting, and my mom will say I’ve always had a knack for more difficult children. So, then I ended up thinking that I wanted to be an early childhood special education teacher, and so I started studying that. And one day in class, we started learning about speech-language pathology, because special education teachers and speech-language pathologists work very closely together. And I was like, “Nope! This is what I want to be doing!” It was like a light bulb went off and I have never looked back. It was absolutely the best decision, I truly believe, of my life.
I received my undergraduate degree at the University of Florida, and then I got my master’s degree at the University of Central Florida. I’m originally from the St. Louis area, so my husband and I moved back after grad school, and I started out in some language immersion programs – that’s where all of the academics are presented in a second language, in hopes that the children will pick up the second language. After a few minor career changes, I finally settled on Supplemental Health Care. And I just really feel like I’ve found my home there. It really meets the needs that I've acquired in being a working mom – which really adds a whole different dynamic when you're looking for your career.
I work at two early childhood centers, pre-K through second grade, and most of my students have developmental disabilities. I do a lot with augmentative and alternative communication devices. A lot of the children have no words at all – they’re non-verbal, pre-verbal, or they just don’t have a lot of functional language. We use these devices – a lot of them look like a tablet or an iPad – and they press the buttons and it can tell them such things as, “I want a Goldfish cracker,” or “I need to go to the bathroom,” and help with expressing emotions. So, I do a lot with that functional language, which is really my passion.
CB: What are some of the challenges that you’ve taken on over the past year, and how has being a staffing employee impacted how you tackle different challenges?
BB: That’s kind of why I chose to work as a contract SLP (speech-language pathologist) as opposed to district SLP, because I feel like the staffing position helps me to get around some of the difficulties that people who may work for the school district actually have to deal with. It has a lot of flexibility.
Actually, today’s a good example. There’s professional development day at school, and I was not required to attend because it does not relate to me, whereas a district employee may be required to attend those things. It provides me with better work-life balance. Normally on most days, I’d keep my boys at home. So days like today are just an extra little special time that I’m able to spend with them. Today I actually did send them to daycare because the house is a mess – but then that’s the other nice balance, because when I have these kinds of days and I’m able to also pick up around the house and do things like that because for the working full-time mother, sometimes that gets pushed to the wayside as well.
I feel like overall, working as a staffing SLP really helps to make sure that I’m at least able to give my best in each area of my life.
CB: Are there any lessons you’ve learned over the course of your career that you think have made you a better staffing employee?
BB: When working in this industry, communication is so important – and I’m not just saying that because I’m an SLP – but communication is different because I sort of work for two different people. I work for Supplemental [Health Care], of course, and I have to keep open communication with them and develop good relationships with them. But I while I work with Supplemental, I live in the school. So, I also have to develop good relationships with my principal, with the SLP supervisors, with all the classroom teachers. And so just being able to communicate with both and develop relationships and be open, be approachable, and just show that you are committed to your profession, because I think that sometimes with contracts - it's flexible for a reason, and that's beneficial, but then that also means that sometimes people leave. You have to show that you're committed, that when you're there at work you're giving them 100 percent, that you actually care, and that you know what you're doing.
CB: Anything else you’d like to add?
BB: I feel that my career has been such a blessing in my life, I think that it has helped me to become a better mother. And I think that being a mother has helped me to become a better SLP. And really, I just feel blessed and I try to stay positive, I try to stay thankful, and there’s just nowhere else I’d rather be. Being a working mother and an SLP – it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m living the dream now!
If every job candidate can be as passionate and qualified as Bourgeois, that doesn’t mean hiring has to be a long, drawn-out process. Check out this free infographic for easy tips on reducing time to hire.