Building Credibility in the NICU: Have You Ever Been Called The Feeding Lady?

By Sue Ludwig

A few years ago an amazing SLP, I’ll call her Angela, led me on a tour of her NICU. She’s very knowledgeable, open minded, and developmentally trained – I consider her an expert in neonatal therapy.

One of her colleagues called her over to introduce her to a parent. That colleague said to the parent, “Mrs. Smith, this is the feeding lady I told you about. She’s going to show you how to get Joseph to eat.”

Now, there are so many places I could go with that statement. But here’s the point I want to make today – this story is about perception and credibility.

You tell me that one of the hardest things to build in the NICU is credibility. And the truth is, your credibility is all about perception. That moment and the introduction were really the culmination of a thousand perceptions.

So what can you do about that?

The first thing you can do to build your credibility is change the perception so they can better understand your role and value.

How do you do that?

Lead by example. Develop a concise intro that clearly summarizes what you do and then use it. Angela’s colleague didn’t know a better way to introduce her. Your job is to simply rewrite that language.

Maybe it’s something like, “Hi I’m Angela. I’m a neonatal speech language pathologist and I specialize in feeding, swallowing, and development. I’d love to talk with you about what that means for you and your baby.”

Maybe your intro sounds a little different and that’s great. The point is, the more your colleagues hear you say this, the clearer THEY become about what you do, and the perception changes. As the perception changes so does your credibility.

Developing your mini-elevator speech as just one important way to elevate the perception and the reality of what you bring to the NICU.

We build this kind of language and learning into the fabric of everything we do at NANT. We want you to have the tools and support to reimagine your impact.

(Oh and regarding the statement above about ‘getting Joseph to eat’ – yes, that made me cringe too – another example of language affecting perceptions and perceptions becoming reality. But that’s a whole different article.)

Can’t wait to hear how you’re building your credibility one introduction at a time. The days of being called the feeding lady or OT/PT/Speech (all in one breath) are numbered.

P.S. If you need help crafting your intro to parents and/or the medical team, jump on the Inner Circle Mentoring Call this Thursday the 18th and we’ll do it together.

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