What a Difference a Year Makes NAFDA Participants Debate Length of AuD Programs Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   May 01, 2005
What a Difference a Year Makes
Author Notes
  • Dee Naquin Shafer, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at dshafer@asha.org.
    Dee Naquin Shafer, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at dshafer@asha.org.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   May 01, 2005
What a Difference a Year Makes
The ASHA Leader, May 2005, Vol. 10, 5-27. doi:10.1044/leader.AE2.10062005.5
The ASHA Leader, May 2005, Vol. 10, 5-27. doi:10.1044/leader.AE2.10062005.5
There is little question that the profession of audiology is moving toward requirement of an AuD degree. The length and breadth of that training, however, still is unresolved. The National Association of Future Doctors of Audiology (NAFDA) took up the topic at its annual meeting in Washington, DC on March 30.
“Our objective was not to question the four-year model, but open eyes to how current three-year programs compare to the standard four and how future increased standards incorporating an emphasis in a basic science foundation can still be met with the three-year model,” said NAFDA Vice President Christopher Spankovich (Rush University).
Billed as “The Great Debate,” two teams considered whether AuD programs should be four years long or three years long. Spankovich represented the three-year model in the debate (although Rush has a four-year program). Representing the four-year programs were James Baer (University of Louisville) and Stephen Hallenbeck (Rush University).
Baer led off, noting that the expanding field of practice in audiology requires more preparation time. “It’s education that allows professionals to be autonomous,” he said, pointing to the number of medical degrees that require four years. The existence of both three-year and four-year programs undermines a single description, he said, adding, “It’s a matter of achieving professional respect.”
Hallenbeck also pointed to autonomy and independence as goals of the profession. “We want recognition as experts in hearing and balance,” he said. In terms of jobs, Hallenbeck said that “There are no ads for three-year externships and there are lots of ads for four-year AuD externships.”
Representing the accelerated three-year programs were Spankovich and Andrea Hillock (Northwestern University). Hillock started by asking the audience how long it takes to do an audiological evaluation. “Your responses would all be different because it depends on the patient,” she said, adding that quantity or duration of evaluations were not valid criticisms of the three-year model.
Sufficient clinical experience is “the real issue,” Hillock said. Without naming specific schools, she pointed to a greater period of time spent in clinic and a better student-to-supervisor ratio at three-year schools. Other benefits, she said, were incurring less debt and becoming employed sooner. “Can you justify an entire extra year for [taking] three more classes?” she asked.
Spankovich noted that three-year programs meet the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of a first professional degree. In addition, three-year programs exist in other medical fields. “We are not against the four-year program. It is correct for 95%,” he said. “We’re saying the three-year program can exist.” Spankovich also pointed out that no outcome measurements exist to prove that four-year programs produce better audiologists than three-year programs.
Five students who commented during a question period were solidly in favor of four-year programs. One student noted that three-year programs might list a greater number of clinical hours, but it does not mean the time is all spent with patients.
Another student said that an extra year of training could provide an opportunity to take courses that may not seem directly related to the profession, but would nonetheless broaden knowledge and be helpful in treating patients. Other comments concerned the benefit of additional practice time through another year of education and the need for a unified stance.
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May 2005
Volume 10, Issue 6