Healthcare delivery is transitioning towards a more collaborative model of service provision, commonly referred to as Interprofessional Practice (IPP). This term is used frequently, but what does it mean and how is it applicable to the fields of Speech-language Pathology and Audiology? IPP was first referenced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and refers to a team of diverse health care professionals who collaborate with each other, patients, families, and communities to improve the quality of care. This collaboration arises when different professionals learn from, about, and with each other in order to improve their patients’ outcomes.1
IPP is not only being implemented into current healthcare and educational settings, but is also being recognized by academic programs and accrediting bodies as a critical addition to training programs for future clinicians. The American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association (ASHA) recently adopted the World Health Organization’s definition of IPP and endorse its use by speech-language pathologists and audiologists in medical and educational settings.2 While ASHA outlines IPP in terms of each discipline’s practice, it does not define the working relationship between speech-language pathologists and audiologists in various settings.
Thus, begs the question: since speech-language pathology and audiology are interrelated disciplines, how do they collaborate in the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of patients with communication differences and disorders?
On November 16, 2017, NSSHLA and SAA chapters hosted an event with that question in mind. The event, “How Speech-language Pathologists and Audiologists Work Together in the Real World,” welcomed over 50 undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, and related professionals to learn about the working relationship between speech-language pathologists and audiologists from a group of panelists.
The event featured Dr. Jennifer Lightfoot, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA and Tara Forkey, MS, CCC-SLP from the Kendall Elementary School at Gallaudet University, Dr. Kelly King, Au.D., Ph.D. from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and Dana Kilonsky, MA, CCC-SLP from Johns Hopkins Hospital. The panelists focused on the working relationship between speech-language pathologists and audiologists, the roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals on an interprofessional healthcare team, the barriers to interprofessional practice in their respective settings, and how patients and their families benefit from this collaborative approach.
The panelists shared that the key to being a part of a successful interprofessional team is to be flexible and open to different approaches to a patient’s individual treatment plan. These different approaches may come from other healthcare professionals. However, family members of the patients may want their goals for the patient’s treatment incorporated into the services provided. Dr. Lightfoot and Ms. Tara Forkey emphasized the role of the family when deciding a child’s language modality (spoken English and/or ASL) and taking their opinions into consideration.
The panelists further stressed the importance of each individual clinician establishing his or her expertise and role within the team. Other health-care professionals are not as knowledgeable about the communication disorders that speech-language pathologists and audiologists are trained to diagnose and treat. Thus, these professionals may not consider the speech, language, and hearing abilities of their patients; it is the role of the speech-language pathologist and audiologist to advocate on behalf of their patients.
Most surprising, while all of the panelists practice and implement IPP in their respective settings, they received little to no training in their graduate programs on the reasons behind IPP nor the clinical competencies required to engage in IPP.
The panelists stressed the importance of continuing education in IPP for those professionals who are already working in the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology. This will help to insure that the professions best serve their respective patient populations.
The IPP Event emphasized the importance of establishing strong working relationships between speech-language pathologists and audiologists, as well as other healthcare and related professionals to provide the highest quality of service-provision possible. As a result, the attendees learned about how to implement IPP into their future clinical practice, whether that is in a medical or educational setting. The event further demonstrated the need to implement education and training in IPP to develop clinical competence for future clinicians in speech-language pathology and audiology graduate programs.
NSSHLA and SAA hope to host a similar event next year to further expand the working knowledge about interprofessional practice between speech-language pathologists and audiologists and their healthcare professionals in a variety of settings.
- World Health Organization (2010). Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education & Collaborative Practice. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/70185/1/WHO_HRH_HPN_10.3_eng.pdf?ua=1
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Interprofessional Education/Interprofessional Practice (IPE/IPP). Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/Practice/Interprofessional-Education-Practice
Jessica Kreidler, B.A., is a graduate student in the Doctorate of Clinical Audiology Program. She is also the President of the University of Maryland’s Chapter of the Student Academy of Audiology. Her clinical interests include tinnitus, serving Spanish-speaking populations, hearing aids, and implementing IPP in her various clinical placements.
Lisa Rickard, Au.D, CCC-A, is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Hearing and Speech Sciences Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her clinical interests include diagnostic audiology, hearing aids, and rehabilitation of hearing loss via hearing aids and hearing assistive technology. She is interested in how undergraduate and graduate training programs can successfully infuse training in interprofessional practice competencies in to their current curricula.