Clinical Competency for Soon-to-Be SLPs

Hot off the presses from the International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. I want to share my thoughts on a recent article entitled Impact of placement type on the development of clinical competency in speech-language pathology students. 

The thing I enjoyed most about this article was how they described their “aim”. In summary, they wanted to see how the placement type for SLP students impacted the competency levels as they progressed through the program. I often wondered how I can be just as competent as my classmate when we observed different SLPs and were placed in very different settings. Yet many of us felt equally confident. This article helped shed some light on why different experiences can result in the same clinical competency. Here’s a quick look at the highlights I discuss below:

  • Caseload, setting, and placement intensity may impact clinical competence for soon-t0-be SLPs
  • Caseload appeared to be the most significant variable impacting an increase in clinical knowledge
  • No matter the setting, every placement provided opportunities for growth as a future SLP

clinical competency

The study included 56 undergraduate junior and senior students whom they followed for at least 2 and in some cases 3 placements (In Australia). They described 3 levels of competency as it relates to clinical practice: 

  1. Students develop experience with more interactions and increase their ability to handle complex issues
  2. As students’ experience increases, less support is needed to determine therapy direction and assessment procedures
  3. Students move from requiring intensive supervision to independent self-supervision

Little evidence is available to determine at what point a student moves along the clinical competency continuum, and what exactly causes the transition from novice clinician to competent. They investigated 3 variables to determine which placement type and models impacted clinical competency the most.

Every SLP-to-be in a graduate program completes internships at a private practice, school, and/or medical site. These experiences differ in caseload, placement intensity, and setting. Caseload a significant variable when discussing the impact on competency. Specifically, students completing placements in pediatrics (where caseloads are typically higher) had a greater increase in competency compared to peers who were placed in adult settings. Overall, the results show no matter the variable differences, student learning increased with each placement. Another favorite quote of mine from this article:

“The results suggest that any knowledge gained is preparing students for future learning, and that prior knowledge is being transformed and expanded in each new placement (Hager and Hodkinson 2009).”

Figure 1 shows the changes in mean across the three placements.

While setting, caseload, and placement intensity may help develop my SLP skills, one thing can take me even further… Becoming a lifelong learner. This is a key ingredient to consider with all of the above factors .

Reflection, a positive outlook on learning, and accepting and implementing feedback are just as important as the context of where and with whom you learn it.

7 thoughts on “Clinical Competency for Soon-to-Be SLPs

  1. Pingback: Research Tuesday – November Roundup

  2. Interesting. I did my internships at a neuro rehab hospital doing intensive inpatient therapy and a sleepy (extremely low caseload) ICU/Acute care hospital. I learned a lot more from the neuro rehab placement. But for me I knew I didn’t want to work in the school system or with kids. Developing competency in child language didn’t make sense.

  3. Very cool post! Definitey helpful to keep in mind for future SLPs (like me). Comforting to know that no matter where you end up – you’ll be learning SOMETHING.

    Keep up the good work. How’s Alaska?

  4. ozark speechie

    I just wanted to say hello SLP_Echo! I’m an SLP who hails from Anchorage, AK. I meeting SLP’s who have relocated to or who live in the last frontier state. It’s amazing, isn’t it? I’m glad you are enjoying your experiences there – one of my favorite spots to study was a cute little coffee shop in downtown Anchorage called SideStreet Espresso. I also called up the SLPs at the time who were working at the Native Alaskan hospital and they allowed me to observe and answered so many questions for me when I was still an undeclared undergrad – it was awesome!

  5. Pingback: And Some Good |

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