Dealing with a pandemic is difficult enough, but taking a new job in the middle of a public health crisis can put a little extra level of craziness on it.
Since becoming the new director of Clinical Education within the University’s Department of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), which includes overseeing the Speech-Language Institute (SLI) of Salus University in August 2020, Eileen Hunsaker, MS, CCC-SLP, has been busy getting to know the faculty, students and clients at SLI. That is a lot of people to familiarize oneself within a short period of time.Eileen Hunsaker
“It’s been a busy four months learning everything, but I’ve felt very welcomed here, really supported, and happy to be part of such an amazing group of people,” said Hunsaker. “That’s what gets me through some of the long days, knowing that we’ve got each other’s backs in our department.”
Most recently, Hunsaker was an assistant professor at the New York Medical College, Department of Speech-Language Pathology. She previously served as a clinical assistant professor at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona and assistant professor/Aphasia Center Coordinator at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston.
With more than 25 years of experience as a clinical speech-language pathologist and educational professional, her area of expertise is in the acute rehabilitation of adults post CVA (stroke) and Traumatic Brain Injury.
“When I heard that there was a clinic here that needed a new director where the clientele was 50 percent adults and 50 percent children, and that I would have the opportunity to teach, I knew this would be great,” said Hunsaker. “Everybody I met in the interviews, who are now my colleagues, were very committed to the program. That’s what really drew me to it, the level of commitment to the students and program.”
The SLP program has remained on track through the pandemic and she is confident it will continue to stay strong as the University moves forward. All the safety protocols for dealing with clients have continued to challenge SLP students, who are now conducting 75 percent of the appointments virtually, with the rest being in-person at SLI. But they have been up to the task.Eileen Hunsaker on vacation
“We do a lot of modeling with speech and language, and the client looks at your lips, your face, the way you produce sounds. It takes a lot of visual and with a mask it’s difficult,” said Hunsaker, who added that the clinicians wear a clear mask covered by a clear shield and gloves when helping many in-person clients. “The policy is, even if we’re in a virtual session, we keep masks on because clinic rooms are shared multiple times a day. We have to keep the contact precautions always up to speed.”
Staying innovative with clients and finding different ways to keep them motivated, especially those children who are in virtual school all day, has paid off, according to Hunsaker. In satisfaction surveys sent out at the end of the semester, the program has received positive feedback from 98.9 percent of its clients.
When she isn’t dealing with a public health crisis and teaching Salus SLP students, Hunsaker’s pre-pandemic interests included being an avid traveler. A California native who has lived in Costa Rica, Colombia and London, England, she has regularly traveled to the Caribbean once or twice a year.Eileen Hunsaker petting a turtle
A single mom, Hunsaker also spends time with her two children, Olivia, 15, and Quinn, 14, who keep her busy as well. “They pretty much want to do things their own way, but of course they need guidance, even though they don’t think so,” she said.
However, the nomadic lifestyle may be ending.
“I want to stay on the Eastern Seaboard because that’s where I belong,” said Hunsaker. “I’ve moved three times in the past three years, so I’m done. When I’m done unpacking these boxes, I am unpacking them permanently. I’m here at Salus for the long haul.”