Anticipating change and responding to the needs of our members is at the core of the decision by the Board of Directors to create a new form of affiliation in ASHA.
In my articles in The ASHA Leader and as I speak to members throughout the country, I have had an opportunity to talk about leadership—a subject near and dear to me. But my comments have mostly been about individual leadership. Now I want to talk about organizational leadership.
Organizations lead when they anticipate change and take effective action to respond to that change. They lead when they understand trends that will affect members and put programs in place that allow the association to be ready to take advantage of those trends. For ASHA, leadership also means understanding our environment and changing to meet effectively the challenges facing us. Effective leaders study and comprehend the trend data, then offer real-world solutions.
Anticipating change and responding to the needs of our members is at the core of the decision by the Board of Directors to create a new form of affiliation in ASHA for communication sciences and disorders (CSD) support personnel—ASHA associates. There are many reasons why we think the time is right to welcome audiology assistants and speech-language pathology assistants (SLPAs) into ASHA, but let me explain some of the major factors driving our decision.
First, assistants in audiology and speech-language pathology already are contributing to the delivery of services for persons with communications disorders. Many members work with assistants in a variety of settings, and we've heard loud and clear that you want our help in finding ways to improve your role as a supervisor. In addition, there is widespread inconsistency across the country regarding the licensing and use of assistants in our professions. If we want to have an impact on the proper use of SLPAs and audiology support staff, we need to get involved on the inside. ASHA can't have much influence as an outside observer.
Second, we can see the potential for improving patient care when we are involved in making sure that standards for qualified practitioners are followed. We can strive to make sure that assistants are properly supervised by ASHA-certified practitioners and work within their scope of responsibilities. Federal and state regulators are seeking guidance from ASHA as they seek to develop criteria for regulating support personnel. We need to understand the pressures they are under and be ready to help.
Finally, support personnel, particularly SLPAs, have told us they want our help. SLPAs are ready to contribute within the guidelines we have set. They are looking for ways to provide better support to ASHA-certified clinicians while helping to improve client and patient care.
Our plan is to offer an associate category to individuals who are currently working in CSD support positions and providing audiology or speech-language pathology services under the supervision of an ASHA-certified audiologist or SLP, or to assistants who are qualified to offer support services in their state but are not currently working.
Associate applicants will be required to have their ASHA-certified supervisor attest to the fact that they have the necessary skills to work in a support position. If associate applicants are not currently working, their college or university program director must sign their application to attest to their skills. Associates must agree to abide by a professional practice statement that, among other things, requires that they work only under the supervision of an ASHA-certified audiologist or SLP. Individuals joining ASHA as associates will receive a number of useful benefits, but they will not have the same benefits or rights as members. For example, they will not be able to vote or hold elected office in ASHA.
There will be no certification program for support personnel, nor any accreditation for the training programs of support personnel. This affiliation category is focused on helping us maintain our high standards and improve patient care. We see opportunities for ASHA members to improve their supervisory skills and work relationships. We also see opportunities for certified practitioners to enhance their management skills in ways that reduce workload, make their positions more valuable to their employers, and enhance patient care.
We will be mailing ASHA associate applications to candidates across the country later this year. Prior to that, we will send application information to all ASHA certificate-holders who are interested in knowing more about what's involved with joining ASHA at this level. You may want to recruit associates with whom you work and sign off on an associate's application. There also will be a form on the ASHA website for you to request an application.
Watch for more detailed information about the associates' program in future issues of The ASHA Leader. In the meantime, if you have additional questions or comments, don't hesitate to submit an InTouch form to the Board of Directors through the ASHA website.
We are excited about the potential of this new category of affiliation to help us better work with and manage the use of support personnel in speech-language pathology and audiology and to help ASHA members further grow as supervisors and CSD professionals. ASHA is not an organization that "sticks its head in the sand" while change is happening around us. ASHA is a leader, helping to meet the challenges facing our professions and working with us to build a strong and secure future for the discipline of communication sciences and disorders.