Out of Your Dreams … and Into Your Practice Want to be a more productive private practice audiologist? Hire an audiology assistant! All Ears on Audiology
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All Ears on Audiology  |   May 01, 2018
Out of Your Dreams … and Into Your Practice
Author Notes
  • Gyl Kasewurm, AuD, is the owner and operator of Professional Hearing Services in St. Joseph, Michigan, and the author of DrGyl.com. gyl@prohear.net
    Gyl Kasewurm, AuD, is the owner and operator of Professional Hearing Services in St. Joseph, Michigan, and the author of DrGyl.com. gyl@prohear.net×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / All Ears on Audiology
All Ears on Audiology   |   May 01, 2018
Out of Your Dreams … and Into Your Practice
The ASHA Leader, May 2018, Vol. 23, 16-17. doi:10.1044/leader.AEA.23052018.16
The ASHA Leader, May 2018, Vol. 23, 16-17. doi:10.1044/leader.AEA.23052018.16
If you could be granted just one wish what would it be? Mine would be for more hours in the day. Regardless of how early I rise or how late I stay up, I never have enough hours to accomplish my daily goals.
As an audiologist in private practice, I just can’t seem to find enough time to see patients, work on the business aspects of my practice, or research and implement new ideas. There is always more to do.
About five years after I started my practice, my patient base started to grow. I simply did not have enough time to take care of patients and to handle the financial pieces of the practice, such as marketing, calling on referral sources, managing employees or sending reports. I was overwhelmed and realized I could not continue at my current pace or I would burn out.
I calculated the time I spent on tasks that did not require my clinical expertise, and the results of my assessment were revealing: If I wanted to achieve my goal of working at the top of my license, I needed some help.
The solution: Hiring an audiology assistant.
With the burgeoning need for audiology services, and a shortage of audiologists, one of the best ways to increase productivity and profitability is to incorporate more assistants.

The best way to increase productivity and profitability of a business is to incorporate more assistants into every type of clinical practice setting.

Where did the time go?
Part of what drove me to track my time was to see if I could delegate certain tasks to an assistant. I conducted a month-long time study to determine which tasks I could delegate without compromising the quality of patient care. The results of that investigation shocked me. I spent more than 50 percent of my time completing minor, time-consuming tasks that did not require my level of education or expertise. I needed no more convincing. That’s when I hired my first assistant.
Most other medical and allied health professions have well-defined positions for assistants, including optometrists, chiropractors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dentists, veterinarians and physicians.
Just imagine how many more patients you can see if you aren’t spending time cleaning hearing aids, completing order and repair forms, setting up testing procedures, troubleshooting equipment, conducting hearing aid orientations or stocking supplies! Other typical time-consuming tasks include demonstrating the use of Bluetooth accessories, t-coils, remote controls, loop systems and other assistive devices.
With the support of an assistant, it is possible to spend more time with patients diagnosing problems, discussing possible solutions, outlining realistic expectations and providing vital services such as family counseling, communication techniques and coping strategies.
As with any new employee, training takes time, but with appropriate supervision, an assistant should be prepared to provide support fairly independently within three months. Some online programs provide an excellent starting point: Nova Southeastern University offers two online modules. Additionally, I teach a module via decibels180.com. Manufacturers are also valuable resources and can provide training on hearing aid repairs. We combine the Nova training with on-the-job training, and we also send our assistants to Starkey Hearing Technologies to learn the skills necessary to repair and modify hearing aids.

In my experience, the use of assistants bolsters patient satisfaction, productivity and profitability of the practice.

Room for growth
Incorporating audiology assistants has been instrumental to the growth and success of my practice. For the past 30-plus years, I have employed at least one, and now employ three. The use of assistants may still be considered controversial, despite the endorsement of professional organizations for more than 40 years. I know some colleagues worry that assistants undermine their authority and lessen the need for audiologists. However, in my experience, employing assistants bolsters patient satisfaction, productivity and profitability of the practice.
More than half of the scheduled and walk-in visits in my practice last year were handled by the assistants, leaving the two audiologists free to evaluate more patients for problems that require the expertise of an audiologist. And, 98 percent of our patients said they would recommend my practice and hearing aids to others and love our service. This feedback is a direct reflection on our assistants and the excellent service they provide. Of course, state licensure laws determine the legality and scope of assistants. A state-by-state list of licensure requirements for assistants can be found online.
Among the many practice settings that successfully employ assistants are the military, the VA, educational institutions, hospitals, industrial settings, ENT practices and private practices. Many investigations over the years discovered that using assistants can provide valuable help to audiologists by increasing patient contact hours, reducing patient wait times and improving patient satisfaction.
Still skeptical about the possibility of incorporating an audiology assistant into your work setting? Several taskforces suggest the following responsibilities as appropriate to delegate to an assistant after training under the supervision of an audiologist: record-keeping, assisting in clinical research, clerical duties, assisting with pediatric and difficult-to-test patients, and other administrative support functions (see sources below).
Assistants are instrumental in helping with patient care: They also screen hearing, modify ear molds, repair aids and order spare parts. Hearing screening is allowed in my state and my assistants are also certified by CAOHC (Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation). Again, state licensure laws determine specific duties.
When I compare today’s audiology scope of practice with the scope when I entered the field, there is no doubt that it is time to embrace the concept of working at the top of one’s license and using assistants in any and all clinical practice settings. It doesn’t have to be wishful thinking. Audiology assistants are a long overdue reality.
Sources
American Academy of Audiology. Audiologist’s assistant. Retrieved from: https://www.audiology.org/publications-resources/document-library/audiologists-assistant.
American Academy of Audiology. Audiologist’s assistant. Retrieved from: https://www.audiology.org/publications-resources/document-library/audiologists-assistant.×
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Audiology assistants: key issues. Retrieved from: https://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589934665&section=Key_Issues.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Audiology assistants: key issues. Retrieved from: https://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589934665&section=Key_Issues.×
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Audiology assistants: Overview. Retrieved from: https://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589934665&section=Overview.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Audiology assistants: Overview. Retrieved from: https://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589934665&section=Overview.×
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May 2018
Volume 23, Issue 5