Historically, audiology students were supervised either in the university clinic or at community audiology practices by experienced audiologists. These one-on-one opportunities provided direction for the growth of an audiology student’s knowledge and skill, with the goal to obtain a specified number of “supervised” hours that presumably designated clinical competence.
As the profession transitioned to the doctorate, the role of clinical education for doctor of audiology (AuD) students was also in transition. The significant role of clinical placements had expanded with more time available in the program for specific clinical experiences and a greater emphasis on competencies required to become an effective audiologist. The definition and role of clinical educators had expanded as part of this transition, with students in AuD programs participating in a greater number of short-term clinical placements and in a full-time clinical externship as the culmination of their education. Despite an increase in time and the critical role of preceptors in audiology clinical education, training or education in supervision/precepting was rare. Most clinical educators noted that they supervised as they had been supervised and had not received any formal education as a preceptor.
Most AuD programs report using a “triad” model that balances the needs and contributions of the student, the university, and the clinical facility/preceptor. Although a significant portion of clinical education occurs outside of the classroom, clinical educators report that they have received little direct support for, or education on, the specific knowledge and skills critical to the development of shaping future audiologists. In addition, the contrast of educating novice audiologists to that of preparing independent new professionals ready to graduate has not been addressed. Fortunately, as of early 2017, two programs are available to provide preceptor education in audiology, a significant step forward in clinical education.
In 2012, the American Board of Audiology (ABA) conducted a needs survey for the profession of audiology. Preceptor training/education was one of the top priorities noted as a need in professional development. The ABA Board of Governors, in 2014, determined that targeted assessment-based certificate training would be offered to audiologists interested in bridging gaps in their education, and selected preceptor education/training as the first certificate to be offered based on the survey results. Thus, the Certificate Holder–Audiology PreceptorTM (CH-APTM) was created.
The CH-AP is a certificate based on standards developed by ASTM International, one of the largest voluntary standards developing organizations in the world (Coverstone et al, 2016). In contrast to a certification program, a certificate has intended learning outcomes, requires specific coursework, and has an expiration date. It can be obtained by any audiologist interested in learning more about being a preceptor and does NOT require membership in any professional organization. The audiologist, however, must maintain licensure and agree to abide by a code of ethics. The CH-AP, available since May 2016, is offered on the eAudiology.org platform.
One of the goals of the curriculum of the CH-AP is to establish shared terminology and principles for clinical education in audiology. An example is the use of the term preceptor, incorporating dual role of practitioner and educator, and the dual responsibilities of educator and mentor. In order to be effective, preceptors must have education in this area, including knowledge of adult learning principles, and skill in providing feedback.
The CH-AP includes the following four modules:
- Role of the Preceptor in a Clinical Environment
- Clinical Dynamics–Assessment and Performance
- Creating Effective Learning Programs
- Legal, Ethical and Professional Considerations
Modules can be taken in any order after module one, which must be taken first. All modules must be passed to obtain the CH-AP. Modules were developed based on stakeholder input that the curriculum be designed specifically for audiologists, be designed to enhance the quality and consistency of clinical experiences for AuD students, and be crafted to strengthen the profession of audiology by promoting best practices in precepting and professional competency among future audiologists. In addition to the modules, additional resources are available in the curriculum, including advice from experienced preceptors. Once the CH-AP is earned, the audiologist is included on the National Registry of Audiology PreceptorsTM. Academy CEUs are available for participation in this program. Additional information about the CH-AP is available at www.boardofaudiology.org.
The Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) (www.capcsd.org/), an organization for leadership, advocacy, and education for university programs in communication science and disorders, had received feedback about the need for clinical education. CAPCSD has offered continuing education in this area at their annual conference for years. To expand the reach of knowledge and skills, CAPCSD is developing six online courses in clinical education—two per year for the next three years. The first two courses, Foundations of Clinical Education and Effective Student-Clinical Education Relationships, are available beginning May 2017.
CAPCSD’s program is offered free as a member benefit and the model focuses on clinical education in both audiology and speech/language pathology. The courses were developed and reviewed by audiologists and speech-language pathologists with expertise in clinical education. Each course, offered for Academy and ASHA CEUs, can be accessed by a code provided directly to preceptors/clinical educators by the university program. The courses are self-paced and offered online. Preceptors are encouraged to contact the program director or clinical coordinator at the university where they provide clinical education to access this program.
The CH-AP and CAPCSD Clinical Education programs meet a long-term need in the profession of audiology, and both the ABA and CAPCSD are commended for addressing these critical areas in audiology education. The programs complement each other and support audiologists who desire to learn to be a preceptor and to grow their skills in this area. It is hoped that both programs will expand over time in order to provide state of the art education to preceptors and strengthen the profession of audiology.