SLP Team Recognized for Innovation in Education and Research
A team of clinical professors in the CHS Speech-Language Pathology Program was recently recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) following an internal evaluation of the program’s transition to telepractice to meet student clinical hour requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. The evaluation, submitted to ASHA as a proposal for the 2020 convention, and entitled “Student, Faculty, & Client Reflections on a Rapid Transition to Telepractice during COVID-19,” was designated as one of only 57 meritorious posters from among the 1,531 that were submitted. ASHA’s meritorious poster submission recognition is for proposals judged by the Convention Program Committee to show extraordinary, exceptional, and innovative work. The SLP Program’s proposal was recognized in both the professional education and research categories.
The evaluation followed a semester-long intervention that began in March 2020, during city stay-at-home orders. At that time, the clinical faculty team, including Gloria Macias DeFrance, Deena Peterson, and Drs. Amelia Rau and Benigno Valles, quickly moved into action to provide training in telepractice for first- and second-year SLP students who could not otherwise complete the clinical-hours requirement for the degree. Twenty-two SLP students were trained in the new modality, in which students provided therapy online for their clients in the community via Zoom and other electronic platforms. In order to maximize students’ clinical hours, students also participated in simulated client sessions.
During the transition, the SLP program collected data focusing on students’ telehealth experiences and their experiences with simulated clients. Students, supervisors, and clients completed telehealth-usability surveys. In addition, students and faculty completed weekly reflections and participated in focus group discussions via weekly staffing meetings. The data showed that, overall, students had a positive experience with distance learning and simulations, and did not experience major issues while using the technology. Students also indicated that while they preferred meeting face-to-face with clients, the simulations helped them better prepare for live scenarios and exposed them to parameters that might not have otherwise been available to them.
The transition to telehealth following COVID presented faculty with several unexpected challenges: a technology learning curve, trouble-shooting remote support for individuals with communication disorders and minimal experience with technology, scheduling restrictions, and shifting standards for supervision. Despite the challenges, faculty found that the telehealth experience allowed room for creativity and that it reignited a “vigor for teaching and learning.”
While the response rate from the telehealth usability survey sent out to clients was low, those who did respond indicated that they were satisfied with services and that it met their therapeutic needs. The majority found technology to be the major obstacle. Respondents also agreed that telehealth saved on “travel time,” but the majority reported it wasn’t the “same” as face-to-face sessions.
Based on the initial experience with telehealth, the SLP program has decided to continue with telehealth in their teaching clinic. Beginning this fall semester, all incoming graduate students will now have equal face-to-face and telehealth learning opportunities. In the future, the SLP program plans to analyze how the academic instruction, traditionally very hands-on and personalized, has had to change as well due to the pandemic.
For more information about the Speech-Language Pathology Program, please visit: www.utep.edu/chs/slp/.