Powerful Partners This year’s convention theme celebrated the “Powerful Partnership” of audiology and speech-language pathology, recognizing that our professions are stronger together than we are separately. The partnership has had its challenges in recent years, but it is time to accept the truth there are things that we must do together. The ... From the President
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From the President  |   December 01, 2009
Powerful Partners
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Hearing Disorders / Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / From the President
From the President   |   December 01, 2009
Powerful Partners
The ASHA Leader, December 2009, Vol. 14, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.14162009.17
The ASHA Leader, December 2009, Vol. 14, 17. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.14162009.17
This year’s convention theme celebrated the “Powerful Partnership” of audiology and speech-language pathology, recognizing that our professions are stronger together than we are separately. The partnership has had its challenges in recent years, but it is time to accept the truth there are things that we must do together.
The professions face current—and recurrent—issues that need our collaborative work, and we face strong challenges from outside forces. ASHA has convened the Audiology Quality Consortium (AQC), bringing together 10 audiology organizations to develop measures for the Medicare Physician Quality Reporting Initiative, an effort that could improve quality of care to all Medicare beneficiaries. Discussions have been held with representatives of the American Academy of Audiology to explore common purposes and effective collaboration. These are steps in the right direction, and we must work to maintain this sort of cooperation and civility and to move beyond separatism and acrimony.
On what basis can we solidify our partnership? We have common goals in advocacy. Both professions face challenges related to our scopes of practice (see p. 12 story about scope of practice in speech-language pathology). And, most importantly, our patients need us to collaborate, not only to work on their behalf but also to generate the science for the professions.
Regarding advocacy, no more critical issue faces our professions now than how we will emerge in any health care reform legislation. As I mentioned in my previous ASHA Leader column (Nov. 24), the phrase “habilitative/rehabilitative services” is key for our professions. The phrase is in the recently passed House bill, and we hope it remains in the Senate legislation. If it does, there will be funding not only for those who acquire speech, language, or hearing problems, but also for those who are born with those problems. I have to ask: Is there anything to be gained in advocating separately as audiologists and speech-language pathologists on this issue? It is a single phrase—and a unifying concern. We must come together to fight for this legislative language for the good of the professions and for the benefit of those we serve.
It is important to stand firm against threats to SLPs’ credentials at the state level, and we face additional challenges from several directions. A recent draft document from the American Medical Association (AMA) that attempts to define the scope of practice and responsibilities of audiologists takes the position that physicians are more qualified to address disorders of hearing than audiologists. The AMA plans a similar document for speech-language pathology. SLPs also face the threat of different credentials with lower qualifications in states with new categories of practitioners being established by legislative action or state departments of education. These new categories go by various names—academic language therapists or communication specialists—but state systems are using this means to circumvent the need to hire qualified SLPs.
It is time we accept the need for collaboration in clinical service delivery and in the creation of our science. If we expect cochlear implant users to reach their potential in classrooms, social settings, and work environments, then collaboration is key. And as we continue to enhance understanding of the relationship between language and literacy, we cannot afford to leave hearing health out of those discussions. New funding to ensure better acoustic characteristics for retrofitted classrooms provides enhanced opportunities for our professions to work together in schools. The opportunities for collaboration are limitless, and will help create more successful clinical outcomes and better science to enhance both professions.
At least symbolically, it is time to join hands. We must begin to count successes for the professions not by the number of students we recruit but by how our students respect one another. We should place less importance on the success of our organizations and more on the stature of our professions. And, perhaps most importantly, we should focus less on professional autonomy and more on changing the lives of those we serve. If we do those things, we truly become the powerful partners we were destined to be.
This column is based upon Hale’s 2009 convention address.
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December 2009
Volume 14, Issue 16