This past week, audiology and speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) descended on the ASHA national office with a mission: to take a first step in certifying assistants. Along with audiology and speech-language pathology assistant educators and supervisors, they began the process by analyzing and defining their core job tasks.
The ASHA Board of Directors approved development of the Assistants Certification Program in November 2017, with the certification tentatively scheduled for launch in late 2020. Among other charges, the program will:
- Establish national standards for assistants.
- Provide portability of credentials across states and work settings.
- Enhance ethical guidelines for assistants and their supervision.
- Clarify reimbursement of services for assistants.
Leader Live visited with some workshop participants to capture their thoughts about this historic move toward certification. Here’s what excited each of them most.
Andrea Allen, private practice audiology assistant, Seaford, Del.
Looking forward to: bolstered legitimacy of the audiology profession
“We are going to start seeing more and more patients as the elderly population grows and loses their hearing. And having legitimate, qualified assistants is going to be necessary to treat these people.”
Wendy Framel, audiologist, Children’s Hospital, Denver, Colo.
Looking forward to: The guidance credentialing will provide when making employment decisions
“When we’re looking to hire an assistant, we can see and know you’re experienced, you’re credentialed. It says, ‘Here’s what you’re qualified to do,’ and, ‘Here’s how you can help patients.'”
Jarvis Harry, Austin, Texas, SLPA, private practice and home health
Looking forward to: SLPA expansion in medical settings.
“Once it’s implemented, certification will help break down employment barriers. This is especially needed in medical settings. Employers will see that we’re nationally certified and definitely employable.”
Kimberly Hunt, SLPA, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Psychiatric Research Institute
Looking forward to: Clarification of competencies
“What’s important is there will be competency check-offs for us and more continuing-education resources targeted to SLPAs. We can help SLPs advocate to teachers and doctors about people’s speech treatment needs.”
Lindsey Koelsch, Yukon, Okla., SLPA for public elementary schools
Looking forward to: job definition and opportunities at the bachelor’s level for graduates of communication sciences and disorders undergraduate programs
“To be able to work directly with clients [as credentialed speech-language pathology assistants] is really fulfilling for us.”
Lacy Lewis, SLP, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Psychiatric Research Institute
Looking forward to: Expanded, higher-quality services for patients
“SLPAs can provide more services to patients when the SLP can’t because of other demands. Our unit is all about diagnostics, so I can’t provide therapy. But my SLPA [Kimberly Hunt] does, so as team we provide improved patient care as a whole.”
Shekinah Mast, audiologist, private practice, Seaford, Del.
Looking forward to: much needed help keeping up with an ever-growing patient base
“I can see so many more patients in a day now [that I have audiology assistant Andrea Allen]. I used to work until late at night and I thought, ‘I’m either going to burn out or see less people.’”
Jill McManigal, Seattle, SLPA in schools/medical settings, Washington and Oregon
Looking forward to: Portability of the credential.
“I’m most excited about portability—this will help us work across different states. Right now, each state has different [competency] requirements, so hopefully this will become more uniform.”
Alyssa Sargent, audiology assistant, Children’s Hospital, Denver, Colo.
Looking forward to: Forging a clearer career path
“It will be helpful knowing the expectations and job structure [of an assistant], and it will be fulfilling to help develop these across the board. It will give us a process or structure we can refer to.”
As highlighted in a recent ASHA Leader article by audiologist Gyl Kasewurm, most other medical professions—including dentistry, veterinary, occupational therapy, optometry, physical therapy, and others—have well-defined positions for assistants. Next up: audiology and speech-language pathology.
Bridget Murray Law is editor-in-chief of The ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jillian Kornak is writer/editor for The ASHA Leader. email@example.com