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Supervision of Clinical Fellows: A Mentoring Process

Supervision of Clinical Fellows: A Mentoring Process
Lisa Cabiale O'Connor, M.A.
August 28, 2006
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Introduction and Overview:

In today's workplace environments, responsibility for supervising others is increasingly becoming a part of our job responsibilities. These responsibilities may involve oversight of individuals with varying levels of expertise. Distinguishing who the individual(s) are is very important in determining how we approach supervision.

For example, after completing the required academic coursework, clinical practicum experiences, and after receiving a graduate degree, individuals enter the profession as "clinical fellows." An experienced professional is assigned to the clinical fellow to facilitate continued growth and integration of knowledge, skills and tasks of clinical practice in speech-language pathology. Although ongoing evaluation of skills and knowledge are components of the fellowship experience, so too, is the establishment of a "mentoring relationship."

Before beginning a clinical fellowship, the clinical fellow and the supervisor should review and determine the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) requirements, as well as their state licensing requirements. However, it is important to note that some states use different designations to describe the fellowship experience. In California, the experience is referred to as the "Required Professional Experience" (RPE). Upon approval of an application for licensure filed by a qualified individual, the licensing board may issue an RPE temporary license for a period to be determined by the board. Other states require the individual to register with the licensing agency and obtain a provisional or temporary license prior to embarking on the fellowship experience. Some states may also require filing a fellowship plan. Therefore, because documentation and licensure requirements may vary with respect to ASHA's requirements, the fellowship candidate and the supervisor should review and plan accordingly. Address and telephone numbers of state regulatory agencies are available on the ASHA web site www.asha.org.

The supervisor and the clinical fellow must also be very familiar with the Membership and Certification Handbook published by ASHA. This Handbook lists supervisory requirements and functions, and provides an evaluation tool that must be used to determine whether the clinical fellow can satisfactorily perform the skills necessary for independent practice. Supervisors also have ethical obligations to the clinical fellow. Thus, it is important to be familiar with the Clinical Fellowship Supervisor's Responsibilities (ASHA Supplement, 24, 36-38), an "Issues in Ethics" document, along with the ASHA Code of Ethics. As these documents are updated on occasion, it is important to review the information on the ASHA website, to be certain the most recent rules are being followed.

Once national (ASHA) and state requirements are clearly understood, it is time to consider the process of supervision. In the 1980s, Jean Anderson published the first book in our profession which addressed supervision. She noted in the preface of this book (Anderson, 1988) that the study of the supervisory process had largely been ignored. In her book, Dr. Anderson offered a framework she called the "continuum of supervision," and suggested the continuum, along with the accompanying material in her book, be used to encourage members of the professions to view the supervisory process as an important and appropriate area for self-study. Having become an "overnight supervisor" in 1978, only three short years after completing my graduate program, I read Dr. Anderson's book from cover to cover. The book provided answers to a multitude of questions I had about my responsibilities as a supervisor, and clarified how important this process is to the training of future professionals. The same excellent book also provided for me, what was to become my professional focus. I have spent the majority of the last twenty years engaged in the practice of supervision to help train future professionals. For the last ten years I have given many workshops to facilitate the development of supervisory skills in others, while (hopefully) helping them become better supervisors.

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lisa cabiale o connor

Lisa Cabiale O'Connor, M.A.



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