We had the good fortune of connecting with Tracie Bearden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tracie, how do you think about risk?
My view of risk-taking is kind of different. I’d truly believe that without taking risks we aren’t able to get outside of our comfort zone, and that’s where our purposeful journey for overall happiness begins. Risks come with a certain cost- whether it be time or money. As a perpetual risk taker, I can say with certainty that it’s important to weigh out the cost-benefit analysis, but it doesn’t always look like money flowing in and out. I measure how large of a risk to take when I consider if it will bring me towards my passion, which is serving more patients and educating more individuals on the importance of speech therapy and traumatic brain injury prevention.
One of the bigger risks of my life was when I quit my job of eight years in St. Louis, Missouri at a hospital, packed up my entire life, and moved across the country to California as a travel speech therapist. As COVID-19 took over, I became unemployed and landed in Colorado. This eventually led to the BIGGEST risk I’ve ever taken: to invest in all of my unemployment checks to create my own business where I have full autonomy in who I serve and how I serve them. Without risk, we can’t gain more traction to reap the benefits.
Our greatest successes often come from our most challenging struggles.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I am incredibly proud of my patients and the quality of care I can provide them to improve their cognitive communication skills. I have had the opportunity to help patients who had lost the ability to speak, either due to a stroke or a brain injury, finally communicate with their loved ones again. The thing that excites me the most about what I do in my business, though, is watching my patients make progress. I get incredibly excited when my patient shows any sign of improvement, whether that’s through a single hum or an entire conversation. I am diligent in showing them every small progress they make. Proof of progress is what continues to improve their motivation to keep working towards functional independence with their functional daily life activities and communication skills.
In 2010 I started as an SLP in St. Louis Missouri at a small hospital. As I progressed as a clinician, person, and advocate, I was able to decide that a large part of my job as an SLP was patient advocacy.
Throughout my career and personal experiences in the past decade, tenacity and resilience in difficult situations are the characteristics that helped me build what I have today. Challenging career choices, loss of a single parent, along with my own physically and emotionally traumatic experiences have created an internal skill set of altruism, empathy, kindness, resilience, and perseverance that I didn’t know existed in me. This has allowed me to not only provide a higher quality of care, but has given me the drive to keep pushing forward (even when I desperately wanted to quit).
Over the past 13 months, I’ve been dedicated to helping more patients in an underserved community. Communication is the most innate and essential skill we have as humans. The more I focus on why I want to continue owning a private practice and serving as an SLP, the more fruitful my efforts become. I’m able to help more patients overcome greater obstacles this way.
Was it easy? No. Nothing worth working for is, but opening a sole owned and operated speech therapy clinic was another feat. I completed all of my own insurance and billing credentialing. That task alone was one of the most challenging tasks of opening my business in general. Insurance companies make it incredibly hard for you to become an in-network provider even though the need is there for their patients. Waiting with patience during the credentialing process was a nightmare. During the time I was waiting, I was also actively marketing to physicians and different providers on the western slope about speech therapy services and brain injury prevention education. I have managed to juggle my own scheduling, billing, household, and sanity. Without the strong support system that I have had the opportunity to shout out in this piece, it would have been impossible.
I continued to overcome the obstacles on my journey by staying focused on what I needed to do to continue to provide services to help my patients progress and be successful. Reminding myself of their challenges helped to push me through on my own.
That nothing is forever, accept the things that you cannot change, make space for uncertainty, and sometimes there is no why. And most importantly never lose your sense of humor. These lessons came from my own personal experience with a traumatic brain injury following a physical assault in 2018. It resulted in traumatic optic neuropathy, changes in my ability to read and distinguish similar colors, and a downward shift in my ability to focus. Not to mention the mental and emotional trauma that I still carry with me today. Throughout the early stages of my altered journey, my providers were my advocates. I continued to be empowered by my medical team to flip the script; I was empowered to use my trials and tribulations as an empathetic asset to my therapy. These experiences have created a relatable sense of empathy to every patient that walks through my door and their caregivers. I make it a point to let my patients know that I offer a level of understanding on both sides of the therapy table. It’s also my mission to make my patients laugh, no matter how ridiculous I have to be, at every session. Laughter is the most healing experience and when you lose your ability to communicate or have another chronic neurological impairment. Laughing is necessary. I can attest to this personally and professionally. My patients thrive when the heavy air around them lifts a little while their feelings become validated. The ability to communicate in general is the most innate and necessary skill humans have, laughter creates hope in my office.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
If I can do this, anyone can. Seriously. I took a chance moving 2200 miles away from everyone I knew. I experienced great loss in the almost four years I have been away from St. Louis. Through those experiences, however, I have been able to create a brand and a professional business that revolves around empathy and expertise. It blends competency with compassion- because I’ve been on the other side as a patient who survived head trauma and the emotional trauma that comes with that.. My mission and my passion is to help more people communicate and reclaim their independence through conversation. My personal experiences taught me how to boldly advocate for myself in various situations, which has allowed me to become an excellent patient advocate and a bountiful resource center for patients with communication disorders or those who have survived a brain injury.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In the summer or spring, wake up early and head to the Black Canyon for a little sunrise yoga while gazing at the Painted Wall. Afterwards, head back to town and make our way to San Juan brews for a little adult coffee and pick up a 6 pack of tasty local beers for later! Leave the open-air patio at San Juan brews and walk 10 feet into the Farmers Market. Pick up some local goods. Walk to Mosaic to explore a shop devoted to local artists and goods. Grab a few tacos from Double Barrel Taco company and travel to Buzzard Gulch Trailhead to walk, hike, run, or mountain bike. After a day of outdoor adventures, head back to Montrose for dinner at Chang’s Thai Cuisine and follow it up for drinks at Storm King Distillery
When it’s winter, definitely starting off with a snowshoeing tour at black canyon- the gear is provided for you if needed and a park ranger does a fantastic presentation prior to the tour! After the tour, head on over to Grand Mesa for some cross country skiing on the County Line Road followed up by hot cocoa that we packed to warm up between outdoor activities!
Snowshoeing on Grand Mesa followed by a stay at Thunder Mountain Lodge and snowmobiling with them the next day, don’t forget to wear your helmet though! Finally heading to Ironton for some Cross Country skiing, followed by a soak in the hot springs in Ouray!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Absolutely! The book “It’s Okay to Laugh (crying is cool too)” by Nora McInerny and the non-profit organization Still Kickin, which was created by Nora after the loss of her husband Aaron.
I have a list of people I would like to recognize: My first trauma therapist, Melissa. My former co-workers Lauren, Paige, and Sara. My family in Minnesota and cousins in Iowa. The entire team at Cedar Point Health Wellness, and all of the providers in Montrose, including Nichole Moorman, Caitlin Lawshe, and Dr. Bill Faragher who have supported my mission by learning more about speech-language pathology (SLP) and dedication in spreading Brain injury awareness. Danielle Musser, the Adaptive Physical Educator at MCSD for collaborating with my business to provide over 300 children with bike helmets through community business sponsorships and donations. And most importantly my medical speech therapy friends like Lauren, Sarah, and Brooke that the pandemic brought into my life through social media.
Other: Clinic Instagram: @neurobasedspeechsolutions