Build a Professional Network Private practitioners may be independent, but they can’t work alone. Use these tips to connect with other disciplines for referrals, learning opportunities and better patient care. In Private Practice
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In Private Practice  |   April 01, 2016
Build a Professional Network
Author Notes
  • Kristie Gatto, MA, CCC-SLP, is the owner of The Speech and Language Connection in Houston. A certified orofacial myologist, she is president-elect of the International Association of Orofacial Myology and chair of its convention committee and a board member of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). kristie@slchouston.com
    Kristie Gatto, MA, CCC-SLP, is the owner of The Speech and Language Connection in Houston. A certified orofacial myologist, she is president-elect of the International Association of Orofacial Myology and chair of its convention committee and a board member of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders (Dysphagia). kristie@slchouston.com×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / In Private Practice
In Private Practice   |   April 01, 2016
Build a Professional Network
The ASHA Leader, April 2016, Vol. 21, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.21042016.32
The ASHA Leader, April 2016, Vol. 21, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.21042016.32
Every private-practice owner knows that success doesn’t come with those you know, but rather the relationships you form. For private-practice owners, establishing a professional network is one of the most important steps to take to ensure success. Your professional network is ultimately vital to providing exceptional patient care, meeting the needs of the community you serve, and developing a flourishing practice.
Solid professional relationships may take years to cultivate. However, once established, your network will provide new opportunities and insight for practice. Detail in your business plan how you will develop a professional network. Then track, evaluate and modify your methods—every year—to gauge their effectiveness in building your network.
So what do you need to do? Here are some suggestions.
Research your surrounding area to identify professionals, public and private schools, and organizations that deal with people who could benefit from your particular specialty. Your current caseload may also be a valuable resource for names of educators, therapists, advocates, social workers, dentists, orthodontists, physicians, dietitians, social media sites and support organizations.
If your clients feel that you are invested in them and their well-being, they often are willing to share their own network of professionals, friends and colleagues.

On their own, direct mailings or ads in the school musical program often get tossed, unread—and they’re expensive. Think about hosting a lunch-and-learn session or invite someone to coffee. Send chocolates during the holidays.

Demonstrate to this potential audience what you do. On their own, direct mailings or ads in the school musical program often get tossed, unread—and they’re expensive. Think about hosting a lunch-and-learn session or invite someone to coffee. Send chocolates during the holidays. Simply sending your evaluation report or progress update outlining the treatment plan to a client’s physician (with written patient permission, of course) may open the door to referrals. And when that referral comes, send a handwritten note to thank the physician—it takes only a few seconds and costs you almost nothing, but it speaks volumes about you and your values.
Widen your reach by establishing respectful relationships, not only with physicians, but also with their nurses, patient coordinators and office administrators. These staff members are critical to facilitating the transfer of medical and dental records, generating prescriptions, and coordinating procedures. When breakdowns occur, the patient suffers. You can help establish consistency and protocols with your referring providers—even providing a prescription pad to the physician, dentist or surgeon who may have patients who need your services.
Collaborate for appropriate patient care. Work with others to facilitate the most effective and suitable plan of care for the patient. Hospitals, schools and nursing homes have round-table discussions about appropriate care plans. Private practitioners may be independent, but don’t have to be alone—and with the relationships you have established, discussions are easier to facilitate. Each provider may want a different type of communication: email, phone calls, written notes or just your report. Find out what each prefers to keep communication open. In-person meetings with all of the patient’s providers would be ideal, but are not always possible. Be creative and improvise.

If your clients feel that you are invested in them and their well-being, they often are willing to share their own network of professionals, friends and colleagues.

Learn together. You can further your professional relationships when your collaboration leads to education and joint learning opportunities. As you establish specialties and gain more skills, you can further expand collaboration with your referral sources by attending workshops and seminars together, creating task forces in specific areas of treatment, and by offering lunch-and-learns for professional groups. What you learn from others—and apply in our own practice—can improve outcomes for your patients.
Overall, the keys to building a professional network are based on the services you offer to the community. Establish your brand, set your goals and work toward establishing your place in the community. You may not win over the first physician you encounter—but continue to search for like-minded professionals who share your vision and philosophy.
1 Comment
April 17, 2016
Sharon Blount
Classmates
I have worked in Southeast Mich my entire career and have seen firsthand the benefit of having close ties with former bosses as well as classmates; an invaluable resource when summer is a short window of time for students to work on their ST goals. I speak as the parent of a child with apraxia first and a SLP second. May your practice thrive!
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FROM THIS ISSUE
April 2016
Volume 21, Issue 4