Traveling SLP Magic: How to be in two places at once

Where are my itinerant clinician friends—those SLPs who pack up their therapy room in a weird rolling suitcase thing, make nice with administrative assistants all over town, eat in their cars, and find themselves constantly thwarted by conflicting building schedules? Yes, hello there! Let’s talk about how things could be different.

In a word… telepractice. As much as we value being physically present for our students and colleagues, we’re living in the age of Facetime, video conferencing, and working remotely. The whole realm of using technology to be a place that you’re not is now mainstream, and easier for people to accept and accommodate than even a few years ago. And after all, a 15-minute drive can easily mean 30 or 40 minutes of lost productivity, once you factor in packing/unpacking, parking, check-in, and everything else involved with a transition between buildings. This article takes the perspective that it’s not whether SLPs should be using telepractice, but how. There’s been plenty of research showing that telepractice can work (see our reviews on the topic), we just need to be smart about:

What job tasks we target for telepractice, and

How we go about it

The article lays out two case studies of SLP using telepractice for (1) direct service to high school students, (2) remote supervision of an SLPA, and (3) remote observations and consultations by a district AAC specialist. They include a lot of really helpful details about how they set these systems up, so definitely check out the article if you’re thinking about trying something similar. The authors studied the effectiveness of telepractice in these cases through a survey. The participants reported that:

  • Telepractice was effective and generally easy to implement for both direct and indirect services/supervision

  • The dreaded technical issues could be dealt with

  • It could be motivating to students, and

  • The SLPs had increased flexibility and decreased travel time

The downsides? Tech troubles did happen, and there were also some issues communicating and coordinating with sites. Choosing the right partners and laying down the groundwork is critical to making it work!

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The last part of the article lays out some very practical pro tips for other SLPs. For example, they recommend holding a team meeting upfront to demonstrate the systems you’ll use, answer questions, and secure buy-in from everyone involved. Also consider small but impactful steps like scheduling email reminders (with backup contact information and links to video sessions), or using two separate computers on the clinician end of thingsone for the audio/video, and one for all your other therapy “stuff.”  And if your admin needs any convincing? Remind them that you’ll be saving them time (from travel) and potentially money (from mileage reimbursements)!

Note: Not all states allow Medicaid billing of telesessions quite yet. So if you’re in the schools, that is an important thing to check first.

 

Boisvert, M. K., & Hall, N. (2019). Telepractice for School-Based Speech and Language Services: A Workload Management Strategy. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups. doi:10.1044/2018_PERS-SIG18-2018-0004