Picture this: You got up early to plan or double check your plans for today’s sessions. Your bag is packed. Your car is loaded down with toys and other necessities for the day. You are rocking along in the morning. You pull up to your 2nd visit of the morning which happens to be at a daycare, get all checked in/ signed in, go to the classroom to retrieve your little friend…and the teacher gives you a strange look and says “Joey is not here today.” Lovely! Slightly irritated, you load your bag up, get signed out of the school, get to the car and call/text the parent. Then you get the dreaded reply, “Oh I forgot he had speech today!” We’ve all been there as a traveling therapist. Despite your irritation, you realize things happen. However, how do you keep them from happening repeatedly? I’m here to help!
Tip 1: CONSISTENCY
The first thing I do is keep appointments consistent. If you are constantly changing days or times, yes- speech therapy will be forgotten about A LOT! You will then spend lots of time making up visits or miss out on income. You are also losing valuable time with the child and risking a little bit of regression. I cover about 4-5 counties in my area of Texas. Mondays/Wednesdays are set aside for one set of counties/towns. Tuesdays/Thursdays are for the other set of towns. Fridays can be mix of all 5 areas or it could be all in one area. That is one way that has made me stay consistent with my appointments.
Tip 2: CALENDARS
I started using calendars back when I was a school based SLP. My calendars carried over when I got into home health and have stuck with me ever since. You can’t forget about a speech therapy appointment if you have a special calendar taped to your fridge that you look at everyday! At the end of the each month, I give all of my clients a calendar for the next month. Yes, the day is the same and the time is the same…BUT THEY ALL STILL GET ONE! The calendar serves 2 purposes: #1. GIVES THEM A REMINDER and #2. Lets them know if I will be out on one of their scheduled days. The calendar has now evolved into a newsletter type of document. They can see the themes for the weeks as well as a fun family friendly activity to do. I like to print them on BRIGHT colored paper but I don’t always remember to do that.
Tip 3: REMINDERS
Now you are probably thinking, “Why do I need to give them reminders? The families already have a consistent time/day AND they have a calendar.” For your benefit, send them the darn reminder! Life gets hectic. Kids get sick at 2:37am. The washing machine may have exploded at 7am. The dog may have vomited all over their house. You don’t know what is going on in your clients’ homes 24 hours a day. LIFE GETS MESSY. So a quick text to remind them the night before can be a huge deal. The EMR system I use has the option to set up text/email reminders. If your system does, DO IT! Or in the evening before you shut your “SLP brain” off for the night (does that really happen?!), check over your schedule and sent a quick text. On the day after a holiday week off or a long weekend, I like to send a reminder through the “REMINDER” app. Many schools and teachers use it so why not a private practice SLP? You choose the method that works best and do it! It will save you headaches in the long run.
With these three tips, you will hopefully have a more consistent schedule. This blog post does not discuss missed visits due to illness because well…GERMS are everywhere! You can’t help that one. But what I wanted to give you today was tools to help with the dreaded “no show” visits. Those are the visits that leave a traveling SLP feeling just “UGH.”