For graduates of AuD programs across the country, understanding the steps required to become an independent audiologist can be helpful for a smooth transition from student to practitioner.
Applying for a national provider identifier (NPI) number is an important first step in gaining the independence to bill for professional services. A current state license is also required for practice, with requirements varying from state to state. Collecting the necessary documents for employment and becoming aware of continuing education requirements can facilitate the post-graduation transition process.
Frequently Asked Questions About the NPI
What Is an NPI Number?
A national provider identifier (NPI) number is a unique identification (ID) number for health-care providers. It is a provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and is a requirement for all transactions completed under HIPAA standards, including billing procedures (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2020a).
An NPI number will not change if a provider moves to a different state or changes specialization (Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Any time a license number or a work address is changed, the NPI account should be updated.
Why Is an NPI Number Required?
Any provider involved in patient transactions regulated by HIPAA must have an NPI number.
Determining enrollee eligibility or enrollee benefits under a particular provider requires the use of an NPI number. Billing for services requires the NPI as well (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Having an NPI number is also a requirement to enroll as a Medicare provider (Department of Health and Human Services, 2016).
Who Is Eligible for an NPI Number?
All health-care providers are eligible for an NPI number. New applications or NPI account updates should use the taxonomy code for an audiologist (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2020b). The NPI is required if the health-care provider is directly involved in patient-care transactions completed under HIPAA standards, such as prior authorizations or billing for services.
How Do I Apply for an NPI Number?
An online application can be completed here or an NPI application/update form can be downloaded from the website, completed, and submitted by mail.
Professional licensure laws vary from state to state. To access information on the requirements by state, go to the Academy website.
Students can apply for licensure upon graduation and the completion of any additional state requirements. Common items needed to apply for licensure may include an official diploma or transcript, passing results on the national Praxis examination, and/or documentation of clinical experience hours.
Other requirements may include proof of certification from one of the nationally recognized audiology certification programs or completion of a jurisprudence exam. Some states may also require individuals to obtain a separate license for dispensing hearing aids.
It is advisable to keep copies of all materials and to verify the receipt of the license materials you submitted by contacting the licensing board. If you previously obtained a provisional license in your state as an extern, a specific application process may be required for upgrading to full licensure in that same state.
When preparing for employment, have a copy of your license on hand and your certification, if applicable. Employers may also ask for vaccination records, official transcripts, or CPR certification documents. Some employers may require additional items, such as a physical examination or a criminal background check.
Continuing education unit (CEU) requirements vary from state to state. For example, California requires 24 clock hours of continuing education every two years (California Department of Consumer Affairs, 2019) and Pennsylvania requires 20 hours every two years (Pennsylvania Department of State, 2020).
Keep in mind that continuing education requirements may differ for new graduates during their first licensure cycle.
Some states also have specific requirements related to the subject area of CEUs obtained within a licensing cycle. For example, Illinois requires at least two clock hours of training in ethics or legal requirements for every two-year licensing cycle (Illinois General Assembly, 2020).
CEU reporting may also be required for certification and license renewal. Currently, for the American Board of Audiology (ABA) Certified credential, the ABA requires 20 clock hours of CEUs every year for certification, with five Tier 1 hours and one hour in ethics education required. Tier 1 hours are interactive continuing education activities that are at least one hour in duration, focused on one subject area or various aspects of one subject, and provide intermediate- or advanced-level content.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) requires 30 clock hours of CEUs every three years to maintain certification, with one hour of ethics education required.
The hours will be reported separately for each certification. It is advisable to maintain records noting CEU affiliations as hours are accrued.
CEU registries are available through professional organizations to keep track of completed continuing education activity. Each CEU registry lists hours that are approved by the respective organization only, so keeping a personal log of completed CEU hours can be helpful, especially if you are required to report CEU hours through an audit.
Starting Your Professional Journey
Navigating newly earned professional duties and practice as an independent clinician is a busy and exciting time, filled with growth. It is our hope that this resource will help guide you through the administrative tasks necessary to get you started and working with patients.