As a new professional, I’ve had to learn how to become a clinical supervisor. While I learned the needed skills, I was fortunate to have very supportive, talented colleagues, as well as consistent contact from clinic coordinators at local universities.
It’s important that audiologists at all points in their career participate in the clinical supervision of AuD graduate students. New professional supervisors can offer a great deal to graduate students and their learning.
Here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned as I transitioned from student to supervisor.
1. Lead students to the right answer and allow them to make mistakes.
Watching students make mistakes is difficult. It’s much easier to take over for the remainder of the appointment, but that doesn’t help the student learn how to correct mistakes. Instead, attempt to pause that moment, as applicable, and ask the student what else can be done to get better results.
For example: When completing pediatric behavioral testing, there are moments when the young patient is becoming less reliable. I ask the graduate student how he or she can improve reliability and lead the student to positively engage the patient. As a result, the AuD student learns successful strategies and becomes a better evaluator.
2. Set the example of a professional, ethical audiologist.
Treat each student as you would treat a colleague: equally and fairly. An effective supervisor should do more listening than talking. You should encourage the best from your students, even with the most difficult clinical cases. Hold yourself and your students to high standards for quality patient care.
3. Give timely feedback regularly.
Giving feedback takes practice and confidence. Ask the student for feedback and reflection on their clinical performance. This helps to establish a foundation for mutual respect.
Don’t forget to give positive feedback and acknowledge the small accomplishments. The model we use in our clinic is: “What did you like about your clinical performance? What made you stop and think? What could you use more of?” I ask students to reflect on their week with these questions in mind.
The following are some examples of feedback:
“I liked how you gave instructions to the seven-year-old patient. You set up clear expectations using child-
“I had to stop and think when you asked about birth history because I could interpret the question to mean a couple of different things.”
“I can give you more opportunities to ask about case history so that you can practice asking questions in a conversational style, which will seem less like a checklist.”
4. It’s okay to not have all the answers.
Many clinicians spend time outside of their appointments researching syndromes, best practice procedures, and resources. When presented with a situation where you don’t have an answer, it’s okay to let a graduate student know that research is needed. The next important step should be to have the student look up the answer or the related research.
5. Ask for help or information from experienced audiologists in your work setting.
Ask for their opinion and lean on their experience. As a new professional, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was the student asking questions. This is a great time to speak with experienced colleagues about how they would handle situations with students and patients.
All audiologists should participate in clinical supervision. Today’s graduate students are our future colleagues. We can help ensure that today’s students will uphold the values for the profession and for our patients that we share within our community.
For additional supervisor resources, the American Board of Audiology (ABA) offers the Certificate Holder–Audiology Preceptor (CH-AP) online program (ABA, 2019). The program discusses the role of the preceptor; assessment and performance; effective learning programs; and legal, ethical, and professional considerations.