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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
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Introduction:

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



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