Frequently Asked Questions
On this page are the answers to frequently asked questions about the new Speech Pathology Australia Professional Standards.
Why does Speech Pathology Australia have Professional Standards?
The Professional Standards detail the minimum standards for the speech pathology profession in Australia. This assures the public of the minimum standard they can expect from all practising speech pathologists in Australia from 1 January 2021.
See also: Use of the Professional Standards, page 6 of the Professional Standards.
Sue McAllister explores how the Professional Standards enable us to think broadly about what the unique knowledge and skills are that speech pathologists have.
Why are there new standards?
Speech Pathology Australia is committed to ensuring the standards for the profession reflect current practice. The Association has undertaken a review of the Standards as per its policy and in alignment with requirements of the National Alliance of Self-Regulating Health Professions (NASRHP).
The new Professional Standards reflect the voice of the profession and acknowledge that speech pathology practice has continued to change in Australia. The new Professional Standards articulate the breadth of speech pathology practice and support a broader definition and scope of practice for the profession.
See also: Pages 8 and 17 in the Professional Standards.
How are the Professional Standards different from CBOS?
The Competency Based Occupational Standards for Speech Pathologists: Entry level (CBOS) were first developed in 1994, revised in 2001, 2011 and updated in 2017. Their purpose was to detail the competencies for entry level speech pathology practice in Australia.
The most recent review of CBOS has resulted in new standards and a new framework to describe the standards. The standards are now titled Professional Standards for Speech Pathologists in Australia (Professional Standards). The Professional Standards describe the knowledge, skills and attributes for all practising speech pathologists throughout their career.
The Professional Standards are structured under three Domains and have 20 Standards. Each Standard has its own set of Elements.
There are no performance criteria or cues, but rather, Elements written as ‘we’ statements.
Standards that address services and professional practice with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities are integrated into each Domain.
The Professional Standards recognise the breadth of speech pathology practice, and consequently broadly define the work of speech pathologists in terms of communication and swallowing across the lifespan, rather than specifying distinct range of practice areas. Speech pathology practice encompasses work with communities and individuals and can occur in a range of settings.
Refer: The Speech Pathology Role, page 6 in the Professional Standards.
When will the Professional Standards replace the CBOS?
The Professional Standards were socialised with stakeholders between August and December 2020. This period enabled stakeholders to familiarise, discuss and ask questions about the Professional Standards, and speech pathologists could consider how the Professional Standards will apply to their context and role.
The Professional Standards apply to practising speech pathologists from 1 January 2021.
The Competency Based Occupational Standards (CBOS) are currently used as a reference document for many core functions of Speech Pathology Australia. This includes university accreditation, overseas qualification assessment and the re-entry program. For now, all these functions will continue to reference the CBOS, as CBOS provides entry level descriptors of competency.
There are currently projects underway that will address how to implement the Professional Standards in areas where defined measures of competency are required. The Association will liaise with relevant parties as the various projects progress.
My specific area of practice isn’t listed in the Professional Standards?
During the CBOS review, consultation with speech pathologists revealed that ‘range of practice areas’ (speech, language, voice, fluency, swallowing and multi-modal communication) were generally considered to be limiting when describing the diversity and breadth of contemporary speech pathology practice. Speech pathology practice has now been described as that which supports every individual’s right to optimal communication and swallowing.
All areas of practice are therefore encompassed in the description of communication and swallowing needs.
See also: The speech pathology role, page 6 of the Professional Standards.
Will there be any changes to the annual renewal requirements for membership of Speech Pathology Australia?
As in previous years, when you renew or join Speech Pathology Australia for the first time, you will sign a declaration to say you will abide by the Association’s policies, professional standards and the Code of Ethics. As the Professional Standards come into effect on 1 January 2021, there is an expectation that at the time of renewal you are familiar with the Professional Standards and know how the Standards relate to your context and role.
How will Speech Pathology Australia monitor my compliance with the Professional Standards?
Speech Pathology Australia will continue to require all members to sign a declaration that they will abide by the Association’s policies, professional standards and Code of Ethics at the time of joining or renewal. It is also explicit in the Code of Ethics that members are responsible for ensuring they are competent to practise and meet the minimum professional standards of the profession.
I’d like more information to help me understand the Standards relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. What do you suggest?
Eddie Ong, a speech pathologist and member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Committee, provides a helpful exploration of some of the new Professional Standards and provides some practical suggestions for reflecting on and aligning our practice with the Professional Standards when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
How can I be sure I’m meeting the Professional Standards?
The new Professional Standards have no measures attached to them, so there are no measurable requirements at this time. The Professional Standards assume you are engaging in the standard/element, but what you do and how much or how frequently you do it will be informed by your role and context, as well as personal factors such as experience and competency.
Can you provide an example regarding prevention and promotion?
Prevention and promotion activities include an array of different areas of speech pathology practice. For example, some speech pathologists may volunteer their time at ‘Parent and Babies Expos’ or provide information to new parent groups about shared book reading or modelling language. Other speech pathologists might lobby their workplace for different eligibility criteria for a particular client group, screen at-risk individuals or communities, offer various interventions to minimise impairment or increase participation, give a presentation to carers to support communication and swallowing needs, ensure health information is in an accessible format, or supervise a work experience student in order to promote the profession.
These examples are just a small sample of activities that could be considered prevention and promotion. The breadth and diversity of speech pathology practice is one of the reasons why the Professional Standards are not prescriptive and why speech pathologists must be autonomous in their decisions regarding how they will meet the Standards in their context and role.
Do I choose which Standards apply to me or do they all apply?
All the Standards in the Professional Standards apply to every speech pathology graduate, and to every practising speech pathologist as relevant to their work context and role.
For example, Standard 2.7 Contribute to the speech pathology evidence base applies to all speech pathologists, however the elements that apply would likely be different for a research-only academic compared to a clinician working in a community health setting.
In contrast, all of the elements described in Standard 1.2, Comply with legislation, standards, policies and procedures would apply to every practising speech pathologist as there would be no work context or role where these elements would not apply.
There is no mention of complexity, advanced or extended scope of practice. Can you explain why?
The Professional Standards detail the minimum standards expected of all practising speech pathologists throughout their career. Complexity is multifaceted and may be defined differently by different speech pathologists, depending on factors including but not limited to context, role, responsibilities, experience and competency, client and environmental factors and supports and supervision available. Similarly, the terms advanced and extended scope of practice are not universally applied within the profession.
However, any activity which could be defined as complex or advanced, but is still within scope of a speech pathology role, should still be delivered in alignment with the Professional Standards. Any activity that is considered to be extended scope of practice should be delivered with consideration of the specific requirements of that activity and also aligned with the Professional Standards as appropriate.
It is the role of workplace organisations to define advanced and extended practice in speech pathology relevant to their workplace, and to determine and monitor the credentialing of professionals to undertake practices that are considered additional to or beyond minimum standards. Members can view the Association's Credentialling Position Statement for more information.
Are the expectations changing for graduating students and university programs?
The CBOS will continue to be the reference for entry level competency for graduating students until at least the end of 2021. This is because the Professional Standards do not include entry level measures of competency. This means that any speech pathology graduands of an accredited university in Australia will be eligible for certified practising membership of Speech Pathology Australia until otherwise advised. Speech Pathology Australia will ensure that universities and students are provided with appropriate notice and advice regarding any transition plans to new expectations or requirements.
When graduands commence work, their practice will need to align with the Professional Standards, as relevant to their context and role, from 1 January 2021.
New resources which detail the evidence required to demonstrate that future graduating students meet the Professional Standards will be developed as part of a strategic project titled ‘Activity 1: Implementation of the Professional Standards for Universities.’ This project is due for completion by early 2022. In the meantime, Speech Pathology Australia will continue to evaluate university programs using the current accreditation standards which include evaluation of student competency against the CBOS, until the new resources are available, and a transitional period is observed.
Speech Pathology Australia Accreditors will be thoroughly conversant with the new Professional Standards and will play an integral role during the transition to university programs being accredited against the new Professional Standards.
Can we still use COMPASS® to assess students on placement?
COMPASS® is a validated and standardised tool for assessment of student competency development within the workplace, so universities may choose to continue to use COMPASS® for assessing students during placement.
Therefore, clinical educators should continue to assess students as they have done until now, using the COMPASS® or other university-prescribed tool to assess student competency until advised otherwise, by the relevant university.
View Sue McAllister discussing COMPASS®
Will COMPASS® be updated to include the Professional Standards?
COMPASS® is a validated and standardised assessment tool. It can stand-alone. So, while COMPASS® and CBOS have similarities in terminology and framework, COMPASS® can function independently of the CBOS.
Speech Pathology Australia has no imminent plans to design a new tool for assessing competency development during workplace placements that will align directly with the Professional Standards. There is, however, an Association funded project underway to design Professional Standards implementation requirements related to university accreditation. This project will determine the timelines for any curricula or placement modifications that might be required to ensure alignment with the new Standards. This is not expected to be completed until the end of 2021, so it is unlikely any changes will be proposed related to university curricula or placements for some time yet.
Should Clinical Educators (CEs) be referring to the CBOS, COMPASS® or the Professional Standards when supervising students?
Until advised otherwise (by Speech Pathology Australia or universities) Clinical Educators (CEs) should continue to assess students as they have done until now, using the COMPASS® or other university-prescribed tool to assess student competency. For now, universities will also continue to use the CBOS as the guiding document of entry level competency for graduates, so they may also continue to frame the learning objectives or other subject expectations of the placement experience against the CBOS.
From 1 January 2021, CEs should also be guided by the new Professional Standards when framing and modelling what they (as a practising speech pathologist) ‘do’ in their context and role.
There are many ways CEs could do this. Some examples could include:
- When describing their own speech pathology learning journey and how they continually reflect on their professional identity and skills, the CE could refer to Element 2.1b of the Professional Standards (We demonstrate awareness of our personal and professional abilities and limitations and how they develop and change over time and across contexts).
- A CE could also share their new knowledge following participation in a particular professional development opportunity or explain their workplace supervision structures, referring to Element 2.4a (We participate in professional development, supervision and/or mentoring to develop knowledge and skills relevant to our roles and to maintain currency).
Having the Professional Standards document readily available to students will also assist them to become familiar with the content. This is important, as students transitioning to certified practising membership from 1 January 2021 will need to align their practice with the Professional Standards.
How will the Professional Standards impact my re-entry application?
The CBOS will continue to be the reference document for the Re-entry Program until at least the end of 2021.
New applicants and those currently preparing their submission will continue to follow the current guidelines and requirements until advised otherwise. The transition to the new Professional Standards will be carefully implemented to ensure current applications are not compromised.
Speech Pathology Australia will ensure that Re-entry Program Members are provided with appropriate notice and advice regarding transition to any new expectations and requirements.
Re-entry Program Members who successfully complete the Program and commence working will need to align with the Professional Standards as relevant to their context and role from 1 January 2021.
How will the Professional Standards impact my overseas application?
The CBOS will continue to be the reference document for overseas applicants until at least the end of 2021. New applicants and those currently preparing their submission will continue to follow the current guidelines and requirements until advised otherwise. The transition to the new Professional Standards will be communicated to all overseas applicants in a manner which aligns with regulatory requirements and which will not compromise the submissions of current applicants.
Speech Pathology Australia will ensure that overseas applicants are provided with appropriate notice and advice regarding transition to new expectations and requirements.
Applicants who are approved for membership of Speech Pathology Australia, join Speech Pathology Australia and commence working in Australia, will need to align with the Professional Standards as relevant to their context and role from 1 January 2021.