Speech Language Pathologist
For Jill Alain, Yellowknife has always been home. Born and raised in the Capitol City of the Northwest Territories, Jill has spent years taking in the many opportunities for adventure, creativity and community building. So when she was considering moving away for her education as a Speech Language Pathologist, there was no question in her mind where she wanted to practice.
While studying at the University of Alberta, Jill completed a practicum in Yellowknife where, during her first weeks of work, was asked to apply for the rehab team once she graduated. And so, she did. Two weeks after graduating, Jill packed up and moved home where she began her new career as a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) for the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.
“This is a really great place for a new grad – it’s a supportive work environment and there is excellent mentorship. People are really welcoming and ready to show you the ropes – you don’t have to come in with a ton of experience to be successful.”
Another incentive for moving home was the opportunities provided through the Student Financial Assistance Program.
“The Student Financial Assistance Program in the Northwest Territories is awesome. I came back from school with quite a bit of debt, but as of this December it will all have been forgiven.”
Five years in to her work, Jill is feeling really satisfied and thinks it’s a good indication of the many opportunities she has been afforded and the work that she has done in the community. Working predominantly as a pre-school therapist, she has also taken on additional work including; caring for paediatric dysphagia patients; working in acute care at the Stanton Territorial Hospital; assisting with the video fluoroscopy program; and enrolling in many professional development courses.
“I’ve been able to take part in a lot of professional development opportunities, which is a huge perk of working for the GNWT. I’ve been able to complete a variety of courses and was provided money and time to do so, which is an opportunity a lot of my colleagues down south don’t have.”
Jill has also been able to travel for community clinics, and has visited Kugluktuk, Gjoa Haven, Dettah, Fort Providence, Fort Smith and Gamètì. While travelling to these communities, she has been able to work with all age groups and explore the full scope of her practice.
“When you travel to a community, you’re the only SLP that will serve that entire community. Whether it’s a baby with dysphagia, an 80 year old who has had a stroke, or a child in school, you get to work with everything. As much as that might seem intimidating, it’s also what makes the work really interesting. Every day is going to be different than the last, and there are constant opportunities for learning and problem-solving.”
One of the highlights of her career so far has been running a course for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. After seeing a gap in service, Jill pursued a certification to run the Hanen: More Than Words® course for her clients, which had been previously offered in Yellowknife a number of years ago but wasn’t available for families in smaller communities. So far, Jill has run two sessions on Zoom to allow for wider access to the course and has sparked positive feedback from participants. This course empowers parents and guardians to provide at-home support and to continue the work outside of the clinic setting.
Beyond the incredible professional opportunities, Jill also loves the work-life balance. After work, she doesn’t waste a moment and spends most evenings playing sports, paddling on Great Slave Lake, spending time with old friends, and connecting with new ones.
“I find there’s so much to do in Yellowknife, recreationally and socially. Every weekend, you can go camping in a new spot. You can swim in 5 different lakes in the same day if you wanted to and not have to travel far. There are endless ways to enjoy the outdoors and many amazing people to enjoy it with.”
Moving forward, she wants to continue her professional development and strengthen all parts of her practice. She has loved being a member of the Yellowknife rehab team, and learning alongside her supportive colleagues.
“My goal as an SLP is to become a jack of all trades.” (Or even better, a Jill of all trades!)