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Business, Ethics & the SLP

Business, Ethics & the SLP
Janet E. Brown, MA, CCC-SLP, Peter R. Johnson, PhD, CCC-SLP
October 10, 2005


In general, business expertise and professional expertise are considered separate skill sets. In particular, "business" and "speech-language pathology" have only rarely been thought of as overlapping areas of expertise. Nonetheless, when merged with excellence and ethics, these two skill sets can have a synergistic impact on each other.

Because of the number of audiologists who work in private practice, audiology programs address business principles and concepts, with emphasis on coding, billing and reimbursement, as well as hiring and firing issues, and state and federal guidelines relating to business practices. Likewise, in physical therapy, business issues are an important component of the graduate curriculum programs because of their private practice focus. In contrast, business skills for speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have not been incorporated into the mainstream educational model.

A multitude of health and education agencies and private industry stakeholders make eligibility and coverage decisions that have enormous impact on consumers and SLP providers. Although some SLPs work in influential agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Social Security Administration, US Department of Education, and the US Preventive Services Task Force, where they utilize administrative as well as professional skills, their acquired knowledge and expertise has typically not been based in their professional education.

Business acumen is not just a requirement for private practitioners--it is a basic competency for clinicians desiring to participate in administrative issues in any setting: private, public, government, military, hospitals, clinics, schools, universities, and others. Business knowledge and the application of business concepts to speech-language pathology can enhance individual careers, the delivery of services, and the profession itself in many ways.

Career development:

Sometimes, rather than seeking administrative positions, SLPs have administrative responsibilities "thrust" upon them. The transition from clinician to supervisor may be based more on seniority than on acquired administrative skills and knowledge. In other words, the SLP with the most seniority is sometimes selected to administer staffing, billing, personnel and other issues, even though the SLP may not have had formal -- or perhaps even informal -- training in these areas.

To effectively transition from clinician to supervisor, manager or administrator, SLPs must acquire excellent business and administrative skills. The SLP administrator must understand billing, reimbursement, documentation, coding, federal, state and local rules and regulations, the creation and management of budgets, staffing and personnel issues, marketing and advocacy, politics and stakeholders, and many other non-clinical aspects of professional practice. Success often depends on innate flexibility and ability, but a formal mentor and a solid foundation in business matters will likely facilitate a smoother transition from clinician to administrator.

Janet E. Brown, MA, CCC-SLP

Peter R. Johnson, PhD, CCC-SLP

Related Courses

Everyday Ethics: Practical Tools for Navigating Ethical Dilemmas
Presented by Angela Mansolillo, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-S
Live WebinarTue, Sep 6, 2022 at 3:00 pm EDT
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New technologies, expanding scope of practice, and an ever-growing evidence base create exciting opportunities for our profession but can also create ethical conflicts for practitioners. Utilizing a case review format, this course discusses ethical and legal principles as they apply to speech-language pathology practice with both pediatric and adult clients, and provides useful tools for building an ethically sound practice.

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This course will discuss how the stigma of stuttering, advocacy, empathy, caseload management, and the structure of various settings in which we work (e.g., schools, medical settings, university clinics) impact our work with people who stutter, across the lifespan. Case scenarios involving ethics and stuttering will be presented for participants' consideration.

Ethical Practice in Aging Care
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As healthcare and reimbursement are changing, therapists often find themselves facing questions of ethics when working with clients who are aging. This course will review the principles of bioethics and how they apply to SLPs working with aging adults. Decision-making scenarios will be presented and discussed for application of knowledge.

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This is Part 1 of a two-part series. This course will review specific aspects of ASHA's Code of Ethics that are related to dysphagia. It will also discuss how to complete a thorough dysphagia evaluation, including chart review, clinical evaluation, justification of therapy services and documentation. (Part 2 - Course 9084)

Ethical and Legal Issues in Dysphagia Management - Part 2
Presented by Denise Dougherty, MA, SLP
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This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Speech-language pathologists involved in dysphagia evaluation and therapy face many challenges, such as how to handle a patient/family that does not agree with the recommendations. This course will address ethical and legal considerations when working with this type of client, including ethical concerns with waivers and patient-centered plans of care. (Part 1 - Course 9069)

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