Are SLPs Being Left Behind?
A session at the ASHA Convention earlier this month asked that very question. Panelists at The Clinical Doctorate in SLP: Summary of a Consensus Meeting talked about the results of a recent conference and a survey sent to ASHA members about the feasibility of an optional post-grad clinical doctorate for the profession. The lively discussion showed that there is a lot of debate in this area.
The conversation began in earnest four years ago at the 2008 ASHA Convention when a session raised the issue that colleagues from other disciplines who had adopted doctoral education had left speech-language pathologists behind. In a conference this summer hosted by the MGH Institute of Health Professions, these questions were raised: Do clinicians think an optional post-grad doctorate is needed? Why would that degree be better than an MS? Are SLPs falling behind?
The answer to questions one and two was a unanimous yes. One attendee commented, "Masters students can't gain all the knowledge they need." A doctorate would allow speech-language pathologists to push for autonomy as it confers a sense of authority. For example, school-based SLPs would be better positioned to advocate for institutional change. Medical SLPs could gain autonomy in billing. Those in higher ed would be better positioned to be on a tenure track.
"We would have parity with out other rehab professions," another attendee at the MGH Institute of Health Professions summer conference was quoted. In many VA settings, AuDs often lead the speech and hearing department over SLPs. In hospitals, the director of the therapy department is often a member of another discipline, like a DPT.
So, a clinical doctorate is a good idea in theory but would practicing SLPs go back to school? An ASHA survey reported 47.5% felt there was a need for such a degree; 22.1% said there was no need; and 30.4% were unsure. However, when asked if they would pursue such a degree, 25.4% said yes; 40.5% said no; and again, 34.1% were unsure. It seems as if there is still a good amount of convincing left to do among rank-and-file practitioners.
We'd love to hear your take. Would you pursue an optional, post-grad clinical doctorate? If so, what would motivate you to go back to school? If not, what's holding you back?