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Purpose and Mission
Speech pathologists are healthcare professionals who study, diagnose and treat communication disorders. They help people deal with issues such as problems with speaking, language, voice, fluency, social communication, and swallowing. Most patients that work with speech pathologists have communication problems related to developmental delays, stroke, brain injuries, learning/intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, dementia and hearing loss. Speech pathologists also work with clients who have problems in swallowing food and drinks.
Most speech pathologists are employed by hospitals, clinics, universities and local government and school agencies, so many report to department heads or other mid-level management. A significant number of speech pathologists have chosen private practice so they often have no direct supervisor.
In larger organizations, senior speech pathologists frequently supervise less experienced colleagues. In a private practice situation, one or more partners typically serve in a supervisory role over any speech pathology assistants or administrative staff.
Training for speech pathologists includes at least a four-year university degree, and some speech pathologists go on to earn a master’s degree.
Speech pathology is a self-regulated profession in Australia. This means that speech pathology is not part of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme and as such speech pathologists are not required to be registered with the Australian Health Professions Regulation Authority (AHPRA).
Given these circumstances, all practicing speech pathologists should be members of Speech Pathology Australia (SPA). Membership in SPA is the only way to be sure that an individual practitioner has the necessary training and experience to be employed as a speech pathologist in Australia. Note that SPA has a strong self-regulation program to govern and monitor ethical, clinical and professional practices among its members.
Responsibilities of a Speech Pathologist
Speech pathologists have a broad range of responsibilities relating to working with patients with communication disorders. Common activities include: