Professionalism in private practice for SLPs

For SLPs in private practice, professionalism has never been more important

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For Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) in private practice, professionalism has never been more important. Here’s why:

  1. “Professionalism” is a combination of knowledge, skills, trustworthiness, and altruism found in those who commit themselves to a life of service to others. 
  1. Because of our knowledge and expertise, SLPs have social prestige, asymmetrical power over clients and families, and regulatory privileges (e.g. under civil liability laws and Medicare and NDIS rules).
  1. SLPs in private practice must balance our clients’ interests with our desire to create positive social outcomes, our legal, health and financial risks, and our need to make a sustainable living.  
  1. Governments bodies and speech pathology associations guide SLPs through this minefield, e.g., by requiring us to adhere to codes of conduct, professional standards, and a code of ethics.
  1. The demand for speech pathology services has never been higher. Many private practice owners are struggling to employ and retain enough staff and most of us are working hard to manage long waitlists. 
  1. Despite the high current demand for speech pathology services, the position of the SLP profession is precarious. Challenges include: 
  1. SLPs in private practice must not respond to these challenges with a ‘race to the bottom’ or lowered standards. Resource constraints and competition are very real; and we need more innovation, cooperation, and better systems to do more with less and not burn out. For example, we can improve our training and supervision systems for SLPs and assistants, embrace new technologies so we can help more people, and use social media responsibly to advocate for our clients and increase client access to services while maintaining trust.  
  1. As professionals, we must invest in the essential elements that make what we do valuable for the clients and communities we serve. This includes:
    • expanding our ‘circle’ of functional, core, workflow, and leadership, competencies (knowledge, skill, and experience);
    • supporting our colleagues to take calculate risks and to trial innovations, including by becoming more tolerant of SLPs who are trying new things – even when they fail;   
    • upholding professional ethics and standards  especially through hard times;
    • articulating common values above and beyond our health ethics foundations, including altruism, good judgment, empathy, discernment, probity, practicality, and clarity; and
    • increasing our service quality and value for money, including our:
      • commitments to client and staff safety;
      • willingness to accept and act on feedback;
      • preparedness to work collaboratively with clients, families, other professionals, and the communities we serve; and
      • ability to form trusted, long-term relationships to increase our reach. 
  1. For the sake of our profession’s future – and the viability of our practices and careers – we must protect these elements of professionalism at all costs.

Key source: Beaton, G. (2022) Why Professionalism Matters More Than Ever (White Paper), Australian Council of Professions, May 2022.  

For more on supervision of speech pathologists, check out our book “How to supervise speech pathologists properly in private practice“.

This article also appears in a recent issue of Banter Booster, our weekly round up of the best speech pathology ideas and practice tips for busy speech pathologists and speech pathology students.

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Man wearing glasses and a suit, standing in front of a bay

Hi there, I’m David Kinnane.

Principal Speech Pathologist, Banter Speech & Language

Our talented team of certified practising speech pathologists provide unhurried, personalised and evidence-based speech pathology care to children and adults in the Inner West of Sydney and beyond, both in our clinic and via telehealth.

David Kinnane
Speech-Language Pathologist. Lawyer. Father. Reader. Writer. Speaker.

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