By Audrey Taylor
As clinics begin to emerge from the challenges of the pandemic and focus on what’s next, the start of the next externship application cycle is just around the corner. The past year has certainly presented many challenges to prospective externs and externship sites alike. However, for many years students have consistently described the process as stressful, confusing, and unstandardized. The externship year is a critical step in the development of the next generation of audiologists as it provides an opportunity to translate academic knowledge to real-world clinical situations. High-quality externship sites are always in demand to ensure the next generation is prepared to tackle the challenges of the changing hearing health-care landscape.
Recently, a group of audiologists including Dr. Ian Windmill launched the Audiology Clinical Education Network (ACEN) to promote standardization of the externship process. When asked why the decision to act, Dr. Ian Windmill stated,
The decision to act evolved from the clinical sites who also found the externship process stressful and unorganized. Though most individual academic programs had organized processes for placing students, there was no organization or coordination across the programs. Subsequently the clinical sites were subject to differing requirements every year depending on which program the student attended.
Though this was problematic, there were greater concerns around the manner in which clinical sites were competing for students, moving their interview and offer process earlier and earlier in the year in order to assure access to quality students. In addition, students were being asked to make decisions before they had a chance to interview with different clinical sites.
Over the years, these factors became more problematic for all the clinical sites, finally reaching the point where serious discussions among the sites was necessary to develop a more standardized process. In fact, the concept of “standardization” was a driving construct in the formation of a network. Though the timeline for the interview, offer and acceptance process was the first aspect of the externship process tackled, there are other parts the network would like to see standardized as well, including the assessment tools, the feedback process, the application process, etc.
Also important for the network is to learn best clinical practices from each other. As this learning takes place, there will be greater standardization in teaching/learning and experiences within the sites, which will lead to better outcomes for graduates, and a positive benefit for the profession.”
The reaction to this new the newly formed ACEN has been overwhelmingly positive as over 65 different sites had joined the network by summer of 2021. Additionally, the network has a wide array of different types of sites including academic medical centers, VA hospitals, private practices, large medical complexes, and multi-disciplinary clinics.
The network is focused on the application/acceptance timeline. Below is the network’s proposed common timeline for the upcoming externship cycle for Fall 2021:
- September 10, 2021: Deadline for students to submit application materials to individual sites.
- September 11, 2021: Externship sites begin interviewing applicants.
- October 15, 2021: Interviews completed.
- October 20, 2021: Offers of externships extended to students at noon eastern time.
- October 24, 2021: Deadline for students to accept offers of externships.
- Ongoing: Supplemental offers may be extended to students if positions are not filled.
- November 20, 2021: Process closes.
Whether you are an established externship site or considering opening your doors to an extern for the first time, the timeline above can serve as a starting point to ensure your clinic stays competitive for the best applicants. To date, there is no central repository of externship sites. However, there are plans for the ACEN to be able to provide a list of participating clinical sites soon, and there are plans to post the list on a website, however the website has not been developed as of now.
In addition, the Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CAPCSD) has had a task force in place to address issues of concern for clinical education. Dr. Katie Colella, chair of the Academy’s Academic Programs Committee (APC), represented the Academy in the task force in its early stages and brought to the task force the outcome of discussions by the APC. Additionally, the APC and Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) have conducted surveys that have shown that a standardized timeline is a priority and concern for both externship sites and students.
Looking for more externship resources or externship opportunities?
Audrey Taylor, AuD, is an audiologist with UT Physicians and serves patients at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. Dr. Taylor currently serves as a volunteer on the American Academy of Audiology New Professionals Committee and as a volunteer on the Texas Academy of Audiology Membership Committee.
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