Essential Functions of Candidates for Program Admission and Continuance
The Western Washington University Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ speech-language pathology and audiology preparation programs lead to a Master of Arts in Speech Language Pathology and/or Audiology. The core curriculum is designed to support student attainment of the academic and clinical competencies needed for graduation and to apply for a speech-language pathologist and/or audiologist licensure in the state of Washington. The education of a speech language pathologist or audiologist requires assimilation of knowledge, acquisition of skills, and development of judgment through patient care experience in preparation for independent and appropriate decision making practices. The current practices of speech-language pathology and audiology emphasize collaboration among audiologists, speech language pathologists, other allied health care professionals, physicians, and patients.
The accredited graduate programs in speech-language pathology and audiology of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) at Western Washington University adhere to the standards set by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Within ASHA standards, the CSD program has the freedom and ultimate responsibility for: the selection of students; the design, implementation, and evaluation of the curriculum; the evaluation of student progress; and, the determination of who should be awarded a degree.
Faculty and professional staff in the CSD Department have a responsibility for the welfare of patients tested, treated, or otherwise affected by students enrolled in the CSD Program. The Department has the responsibility to the public to assure that its graduates can become fully competent audiologists and speech-language pathologists, capable of delivering quality care in a timely manner and preserving the well-being of the patients they serve. Thus it is important that persons admitted, retained, and graduated possess the intelligence, integrity, compassion, humanitarian concern, and physical and emotional capacity necessary to practice speech language-pathology and audiology.
The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, as part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Western Washington University is committed to the principle of equal opportunity. The University, College, and Department do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, disabled veteran or Vietnam era veteran status. When requested, the University will provide reasonable accommodation to otherwise qualified students with properly certified disabilities. The CSD Department’s faculty and professional staff have responsibility for the welfare of students in the Department. In order to fulfill this responsibility, the Department has established academic standards and minimum essential requirements that must be met with or without reasonable accommodations in order to participate in the program and graduate.
The Communication Sciences and Disorders Department at Western Washington University endeavors to select applicants who have the ability to become highly competent speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Admission and retention decisions are based not only on satisfactory prior and ongoing academic achievement but also on non-academic factors that serve to insure that the candidate can complete the essential functions of the academic and clinical program required for graduation. Essential functions, as distinguished from academic standards, refer to those cognitive, physical, and behavioral abilities that are necessary for satisfactory completion of all aspects of the curriculum, and the development of professional attributes required by the faculty of all students at graduation. The essential functions required by the curriculum are in the following areas: motor, sensory, communication, intellectual/cognitive (conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities for problem solving and diagnosis), behavioral/emotional, and the professional aspects of the performance of a speech language pathologists and/or audiologist.
The student should have sufficient motor function so that he/she is able to execute movements required to provide with acuity, accuracy, and facility, a complete speech, language, and/or audiologic examination and provide therapeutic services to patients of all ages and both genders in all clinical situations. The student must have the ability to safely assist patients in moving, for example, from room to room, from chair to chair, on and off examination table.
The CSD curriculum requires essential abilities in information acquisition. The student must have the ability to master information presented in course work in the form of lectures, written materials, and projected images. The student must also be able to acquire the information presented through demonstrations and experiences in the clinical training portion of the program. He or she must be able to observe a patient accurately, at a distance and close at hand, and observe and appreciate non-verbal communication and manual signs when performing clinical assessments and treatment activities. The student must have the ability to take a case history and perform a visual examination of various oral and cranio-facial structures (i.e. ear, throat, oral cavity, skull, etc). The student must have sufficient sensory capability to perform all required examination and treatment protocols using instruments and tools necessary for accurate, efficient, and timely completion of such activities.
The student must be able to accurately, effectively, and sensitively communicate information on patient status with other students, faculty, staff, patients, families, and other professionals. This information must be communicated in a succinct yet comprehensive manner and in settings in which time available may be limited. These skills require the ability to assess and effectively communicate all relevant information including the significance of non-verbal responses. These skills also require the ability to immediately assess incoming information to allow for appropriate, well-focused follow-up inquiry. The student must be capable of responsive, empathetic listening to establish rapport in a way that promotes openness on issues of concern and sensitivity to potential cultural differences. He or she must express his or her ideas and feelings clearly and demonstrate a willingness and ability to give and receive feedback.
The student must have the cognitive abilities necessary to master relevant content in basic science and clinical courses at a level deemed appropriate by the faculty and professional staff. These skills may be described as the ability to comprehend, memorize, analyze, and synthesize material. He/she must be able to develop reasoning and decision making skills appropriate to the practice of speech language pathology and/or audiology.
The student must possess the emotional health required for the full utilization of his or her intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, and the prompt completion of all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and treatment of communication disorders in patients. In addition, he or she must be able to maintain mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, students, faculty, staff, and other professionals under all conditions including highly stressful situations. The student must have the emotional stability to function effectively under stress and to adapt to an environment that may change rapidly without warning and/or in unpredictable ways. The student must be able to experience empathy for the situations and circumstances of others and effectively communicate that empathy. The student must know if his or her values, attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and/or experiences affect his or her perceptions and relationships with others. The student must be willing and able to examine and change his or her behavior when it interferes with productive individual or team relationships. The student must possess skills and experience necessary for effective and harmonious relationships in diverse learning and working environments.
The student must possess the ability to reason judiciously and practice speech-language pathology and/or audiology in an ethical manner. Students must be willing to learn and abide by professional standards of practice. He or she must possess attributes that include compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, honesty, responsibility, and tolerance. The student must be able to engage in patient care delivery in all clinical settings and be able to deliver care to all patient populations including but not limited to children, adolescents, adults, developmentally disabled persons, medically compromised patients, and vulnerable adults.
Adapted from: Katz, J.R., Woods, S.L., Cameron, C.A., & Milam, S. (2004). Essential Qualifications for Nursing Students. Nursing Outlook, 52, 277-88.