As an audiologist, you might not think interprofessional practice (IPP) is a natural fit for your work. After all, your assessments and intervention services don’t typically require ongoing teamwork.
However, audiologists have an important role to play when hearing, communication, balance, or other auditory concerns arise with a patient. In these cases, audiologists should join an IPP team for an intentional period of collaborative work.
Interprofessional teams may work with patients or students for a brief or an extended period of time. A longer-term commitment is important in certain cases, such as helping a person recover from a stroke and regain communication and mobility skills. However, as an audiologist, participating on a team over a long timeline may not align with the types of services you provide. That’s okay! It is totally acceptable to join an IPP team for a limited amount of time to address a specific need, such as an assessment to rule out hearing loss for a patient who is having memory issues.
How will you know if your expertise is needed on a team? The answer is...open communication. The IPP team should outline patient goals and identify potential challenges that the patient may encounter. By communicating among providers, each member of the patient’s care team should understand the needs and potential for collaboration. This means that an audiologist can be brought in when the time is right.
Even though audiologists work specifically with hearing and balance issues, it’s important to know about other health conditions, too. Some conditions may either be risk factors for hearing loss or a consequence of a hearing loss. For example, sleep apnea, diabetes, and high blood pressure all put a patient at risk for developing or worsening hearing loss. On the flip side, some conditions, such as anxiety and depression, might be a consequence of a hearing loss.
Understanding these connections will help you coordinate care for individuals seeing multiple health professionals and will help you work more effectively on an IPP team. To learn more, review the ASHA Audiology Patient Information Series resource on comorbidities and hearing loss [PDF].
As audiologists, we know our work is critical to improving our patients' lives. But not every health care professional understands all the things we do. That means we may not be included on an IPP care team even when we could have made a big impact.
In many cases, it’s up to us to ensure that other professionals, supervisors and facility leadership understand what audiologists do and how we help patients. This may mean hosting in-services for fellow medical staff to educate them on the role of an audiologist and to share relevant research, such as studies showing that treating hearing loss leads to a lower likelihood of hospital readmission. Having these conversations will ensure that other health care professionals reach out when the patient need arises.
Strong communication is a must for interprofessional collaboration. Audiologists often work in settings, such as a small private practice, separate from other care providers.
Unfortunately, "out of sight" often means "out of mind." Audiologists need to work harder to stay in touch with the rest of our patients’ care teams. Even when you are not actively part of an IPP team, it’s important to keep other health care providers in the loop with a quick phone call or email about the patient’s progress. For example, reach out to the patient's internist or referring specialist to discuss connections between their hearing loss and the comorbid conditions they are treating.