Sunday, March 10, 2013

SLP Assistants

I love the idea of Assistants and have had assistants in the past and now have a new assistant.  Assistants are great.  What is not great is the way the education process is currently done. 

WARNING:  I am getting on my soapbox for a moment about SLP Assistants.

I don't know if this model is consistent across the nation, but in Texas the Bachelor level SLPs are graduated with only observation hours and no practical clinical experience.  This was okay before the granting of an Assistant License because the graduate could not practice without completing the Master's Degree and thus getting the clinical practicums.  With the granting of Licensure for the Assistant at the Bachelor's degree level, we now have a whole host of people seeking jobs with "no practical experience".  So, when I hire an Assistant I have to spend a lot of my time in the training.  I do this type of training because I am in private practice and the reputation of my business is built on "quality" of services.  The sad fact is that there are many facilities that do not value quality that hire these Assistants and do not supply training (and I have heard that many do not even meet the minimum supervisory requirements... some provide no supervision at all... although there is the threat of auditing by the state committee for licensure, there seems to be very little auditing going on). 

If you are a consumer/client reading this: Ask if your therapist is a fully licensed SLP or an Assistant. Do not fear having an Assistant, they do great work, but DO ask about the supervision.  They should be supervised a minimum of two hours per week.  A fully licensed SLP should bear all responsibility for the client and should be writing up the evaluation and providing and updating all treatment plans and goals.

If you are an SLP and are asked to supervise an Assistant at your workplace:  Read the laws for your state about supervisory responsibility.  As the supervisor, you are responsible for each client the Assistant sees.  If anything goes wrong, it comes down on your head.  Do not allow your name to be listed as a supervisor if you are not willing to take the responsibility for the work of the Assistant.  It is in the best interest of yourself and the clients that you supervise the Assistant in a manner that insures good quality therapy is being done.

To businesses that consider hiring an Assistant but have no SLP to supervise (home health agencies, nursing homes, schools, etc.): You CANNOT do this!  An Assistant cannot be the sole SLP without a fully licensed SLP in charge of the caseload.  It is against the law!  If an Assistant does not yet have a license, it is your job to provide the 100% supervised hours until they meet the requirements.

To the Academic institutions:  Please look at your degree plans with the realization that your Bachelor Degree candidates may be able to work as Assistants upon graduation and need some practical experience.  Just as a teaching degree requires a semester of student teaching, these students should spend a semester of hands on experience working with clients.  Perhaps consider a student teaching plan placing them in the public schools with Speech Therapists.  With my B.S.Ed., this is what we did.  (But 30 years ago, I had both a student teaching with Speech Therapy semester and clinical practicums since Bachelor Degrees were sufficient prior to licensure).

Finally, to Assistants:  I know it is frustrating to plan on a career, to work hard to get your Bachelor's Degree, and then to find yourself unable to get into the Graduate program to complete your degree.  Finding work as an Assistant is a marvelous way to get lots of practical experience while trying to get into a Master's level program.  For some, being an Assistant is the career path you have chosen for any number of reasons or circumstances.  It can be a great and rewarding path on its own.  My advice is to know the laws and rules/regulations in your state for being an Assistant.  You are just as responsible as any employer or supervisor for knowing these rules.  If they are not providing the required supervision, point this out to them.  If they refuse, find another job. Also, if the supervisor does not want to take the time and energy to train you, find another job. 

SLP Assistant jobs are difficult to find because SLPs are preferred.  However, with a shortage of SLPs, there are more opportunities out there.  If you cannot find a job as an SLP Assistant, I urge you to look for jobs in related fields where you can gain practical experiences working with people.  If your desire is to work with kids, get a job in a Day Care Center, as a teacher's aid, in a learning disabilities or study program (things like Sylvan, Learning RX, ABA programs, etc,).  If you want to work with adults, look into jobs such as being a sitter for the elderly, working in a nursing home as an activity director, working with the local MHMR programs, etc.  Even doing volunteer work will give you practical hands on experiences working with people.  If two applicants come to me for an Assistant position, I will always choose the one with practical experience.  The other thing I look at is GPA because grades reflect work ethic, in most cases.

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