What a year 2020 has been so far for PSHA members, our families and friends, and our clients/students/patients/residents. COVID-19 has brought so many changes to our daily lives both at home and at work. Events across our country have brought important issues of social justice to the forefront. PSHA condemns racism, hatred, bigotry, and marginalization of individuals. We want our present and future to be a world where all people are empowered with the fundamental human right to communicate, engage, and truly be heard.
Your PSHA Executive Board continues to meet and work and advocate for speech/language/hearing professionals all across our state. I am honored and humbled to serve the professionals in our state and as I begin my term as president, I will share with you some of this year’s plans.
The Executive Board formally meets four times a year (April, June, September and December) and starting this past spring (since our 2020 convention was cancelled) we held our annual Town Hall via Zoom. This meeting was very well attended and we look forward to continuing to use online means to reach our membership and communicate the activities of our state association on a regular basis. The president, president-elect and past president also have a monthly leadership call with the PSHA Office and invited select board members, so that our work continues in between our regular board meetings.
Planning of convention and other educational content continues as we navigate the best means to provide this important service to our membership. Stay tuned for information as plans move forward in the continually evolving context of the pandemic. We are hoping to provide more online content for our members as well as opportunities for members to engage for networking and continuing education.
Our health care SLPs have continued to provide care in medical facilities – some with staggering rates of COVID-19 - and in homes in an environment that has drastically changed interactions with patients due to isolation precautions and PPE. Our private practitioners have continued to navigate an ever-changing landscape of reimbursement and regulation in recent months. Interprofessional communication with our colleagues in physical and occupational therapy (PPTA and POTA) will continue because we all benefit from partnerships with our colleagues in rehabilitation. Many of us share common concerns with regard to changes in practice patterns, reimbursement and regulation and we look forward to continuing the work begun by Bob Serianni last year.
Our school SLPs have risen to meet the challenges brought by COVID-19, providing service via telepractice with all the learning and preparation required to keep the children’s needs at the forefront. PSHA continues to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to address concerns about school certification for SLPs and the impact on professional preparation and career advancement. There is an ongoing need for clarification regarding the Educational Specialist Certification versus the Instructional I Certification and the similarities and differences between the two. We are working toward a certification process that grants all qualified practitioners equal access to career advancement within the PA public schools. There are also ongoing concerns about caseload/workload and funding issues in our state. We have established a Schools Committee which will be working to clarify and make recommendations about these issues. Consider volunteering so you can help make a difference!
Our advocacy efforts include working on issues related to state licensure and communicating changes that evolve through the pandemic and afterwards. We will be working toward streamlined processes for provisional licensure and transition to full licensure for our newest members of the profession as well as easing the transition for those who come to PA from out of state. Please share your concerns with us and we will include your feedback when we meet with the State Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology to discuss the application process.
Audiologists have confronted changes in their ability to provide service during the pandemic and continue to modify their work as our state reopens. Together with the Pennsylvania Academy of Audiology, we will be working with colleagues in audiology to re-examine the state practice act.
PSHA continues to be committed to students as the future of the professions. Advocacy has become an essential part of our responsibilities as professionals and our new graduates entering the field must have the knowledge and skills to work toward positive change. Toward that end our student advocacy day which was cancelled in spring will be reschedule for sometime this fall. We invite university NSSLHA chapters to select a student representative for this important event.
From a legislative standpoint, with the assistance of our lobbyist (The McNees-Winter Group) we obtain prompt information about legislative issues in Harrisburg and alerting us to bills and discussions that can impact our practice in PA. We will continue to advocate for legislation that enhances the practice of speech-language pathology and audiology and communicate information about legislation that can negatively impact our professions.
Throughout our work we remain committed to inclusion, diversity, social justice and equity for all persons.
The increasingly widespread use of remote technology by the pandemic makes volunteering for the state association only a few computer clicks away. Please think about how you can be involved in PSHA and consider volunteering for a committee! In addition to our new Schools group, volunteer opportunities exist in areas such as Social Media, Membership, Awards/Scholarships, Continuing Education, Professional Issues, Publications, and Cultural Diversity. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the PSHA Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make a difference and share your knowledge!
Thank you for all you do on a daily basis to help improve the lives of those directly affected by hearing, speech, language and swallowing disorders and their families, in the face of a public health crisis that we continue to watch unfold. Every day you give to others. Every day you do important work and make a difference in lives of so many. Celebrate your success and the success of your students/patients/clients/residents. Share your stories with us so we can celebrate with you!
Pam Smith, PhD, CCC-SLP