The future of speech therapy is changing rapidly, as a result of many Baby Boomer speech-language pathologists (SLPs) reaching retirement, with a decreased number of new graduates available to take those vacancies. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics says there will be a 27% increase in jobs available in the field in the decade between 2002 and 2012. This translates to more than 119,000 new jobs in the field, but with just a year before the decade of growth closes, many jobs remain unfilled.
As the general population ages and speech therapy demand increases, finding a solution to this problem, also an issue in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom is incredibly important. The following solutions are being implemented across the board, but particularly in areas where high demand is creating significant strain on the industry.
The SLP Assistant (SLPA)
An SLPA would work directly with an SLP to serve the clients and handle all client activity. The SLP supervises and would then analyze the results from the SLPA and monitor progress. This frees up the SLP to handle a larger case load, and saves money because the SLPA does not require a higher salary.
An SLP who has an entrepreneurial mindset can reach out to a school district or health facility and serve to work with them directly at a higher rate than if they were directly employed by the school or the hospital. Though it costs more to the agency, it fills the vacancy, and has the SLP earning a higher income.
More than 75% of SLPs placed in school districts surveyed by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) say paperwork is the most challenging part of their jobs. As a result, measures to automate the process and streamline the amount of paper required for record keeping are being put in place in an effort to make the SLP more efficient, and in turn, more productive to help them serve more clients.
Telespeech makes use of the Internet to connect SLPs to their clients with video and audio. This makes it easy for professionals to expand their client base, because travel expenses are not an issue. People in need of SLP services are no longer limited to their local area, and can reach out to a specialist who can reach their needs to create a more individualized approach. Telespeech studies conducted by ASHA have shown sessions online to be just as effective as a session with face-to-face interaction. Telespeech is particularly helpful for schools and hospitals or in rural areas where travel time and gas expenses cut into SLP efficiency and pay rates.