We had the good fortune of connecting with Nikki Batagower and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nikki, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
What contributes to my success is learning to give myself grace as I do with my patients. Part of my job as pediatric speech-language pathologist is setting goals for my patients. For example, patient X will attend to his name when called in 4/5 opportunities given minimal prompts/cues. The purpose of writing goals is not for the child to be perfect at the skill but to demonstrate mastery of such targeted skill. Similar to my patients, I set goals for myself; however, I have found that I sometimes hold myself higher, unrealistic performance criteria (5/5 opportunities = 100% = perfect all the time), which is not realistic. If I am not holding my patients to 5/5 opportunities or 100% accuracy, why am I holding myself to the same perfection. Thus, learning to set realistic, obtainable goals myself has been the main contributor to my success.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I tell people what I do, their response is “oh you help kids who stutter” or “you help kids who can’t say their R’s.” While that is part of my scope of practice, we [speech-language pathologists] treat individuals from birth to death. The baby that was born prematurely with cleft palate and has difficulty coordinating her suck, swallow, breath while feeding–we treat that. The man that just got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and now has to drink thickened liquids to prevent getting aspiration pneumonia–we treat that. The 17-year-old boy that recently got into a four-wheeler accident but crashed and sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and now has difficulty remembering what his teacher taught him in class 10 minutes ago–we treat that. The 10-year-old boy that has autism, is nonverbal, and uses a communication device to tell his mom that he wants a snack–we treat that. The woman that suffered a stroke and now has difficulty forming a sentence–we treat that. The range and variety of disorders we see is broad and diverse. Choosing to become a speech-language pathologist is not an easy path. In order to become a licensed speech-language pathologist, you have to pass a rigorous national exam (Praxis), comprehensive exam, and obtained a master’s degree. Depending on when you figure out this is the career you want to pursue, schooling [undergraduate + graduate school] alone takes anywhere between 5-7 years. However, like most healthcare jobs, we [speech-language pathologists] are always in need, whether it treating the babies in the NICU, school-aged children that can’t say their R’s, or the elderly man with advanced dementia. Despite the long hours I spent in the library or the days when that one patient didn’t want to participate, being a speech-language pathologist is an absolute dream. I love the impact I get to have in the lives of my patients and their families. With me beginning my second year as a professional, I will be the first to say that I have a lot to learn within this field. I believe what sets me apart from others is my motivation to learn and understanding that learning is dynamic, not static.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would begin our girls trip with a nice meal, because what girl doesn’t like food and girl talk? Some of my favorite restaurants include RA sushi, Cyclone Anaya’s, Moonshiners, Gringo’s, Black Walnut Cafe, and Central Texas BBQ in Pearland. Following our meal, we would make our way back home to freshen up then hit up the bars in downtown and/or off Washington. Throughout the week, I would take the girls to Kemah Boardwalk, the Galveston strand, the galleria, the Houston Zoo, and around the museum district–and if possible, find a concert that we all would enjoy!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to recognize the company I work for, Therapy 2000 and my clinical fellowship mentor/supervisor, Estefania Sardinea, MS, CCC-SLP. Not many people get to do their dream job, learn for the best therapists, AND work for one of the best companies around; I am just so blessed. Our [Therapy 2000] motto is we improve lives–and honestly, working for this company has improved my own life, supporting and pushing me to strive for excellence as a therapist and human being.

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Image Credits
Bryan Anderson Photography Amelia Rose Photography