On October 25–26, 2016, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) hosted a conference on audiology education that was attended by representatives of all 75 academic programs in the United States, with representatives from the American Academy of Audiology, the American Board of Audiology, the Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education, and the Student Academy of Audiology also attending the conference. The focus of the meeting was on challenges for clinical education and, in particular, the consideration of transitioning the fourth-year externship to a residency model.
The current model of audiology education generally includes two or three years of on-campus education followed by a one-year externship. Students graduate after completing the externship. A survey completed prior to the conference identified a number of challenges to the current model, including lack of standardization of the process, quality control for externship sites, the qualifications and skills of preceptors, student debt, and assuring student readiness for both the externship and at graduation.
The model under consideration at the conference would have students graduate after the third year and then require a one-year residency post graduation. Representatives of medicine, physical therapy, and optometry presented an overview of their residency programs. Of the three, a residency is only required for medicine. Both physical therapy and optometry have voluntary residency programs and these are generally focused on expanded training in a specialty area.
After intensive discussion and careful deliberation, the conference participants determined that the audiology profession was not prepared for a residency model and voted overwhelmingly to not pursue the model at this time. After rejecting the residency model, the participants of the conference turned their attention to addressing the challenges associated with the current model. The need for standardization of the externship received significant attention, as well as the need for a collective understanding of a vision for audiology that would subsequently inform the evolution of the educational model. Through this understanding, academic programs could adjust the didactic and experiential needs in a systematic fashion, both within and across programs.
The role of professional organizations and accrediting agencies in supporting or even forcing change within academic programs, particularly in regards to addressing the issues of the current externships was also discussed. The professional organizations in particular were challenged to partner with the educational programs in addressing the challenges. The Academy accepted the challenge and is looking forward to providing leadership and assistance in this regard.