State-Controlled Licensure and Interstate Mobility: Questions from Katrina

Article excerpt

State licensure laws in speech-language pathology and audiology vary from state to state. Natural disaster displacements as well as trends in job mobility have increased the need for licensees to be able to have more fluidity in practicing from 1 state to another. Additionally, literature reviews on the history of professional licensure regulations raise questions as to the functionality of the approach taken in states. This study evaluated specific temporary and courtesy practice licensure patterns across all 50 states. Additionally, I discuss 35 years of literature that presents the 2 theories behind the use of mandatory licensure for professionals.


Imagine that you had to evacuate your residence quickly because of an eminent natural disaster. What would you take with you? If you are like most people, you think of your children, pets, valuables, items that cannot be replaced, your will, pictures, and so on--maybe even some work-related items. Would your state speech-language and hearing license or American Speech-Language-Hearing Association card come to mind? This is a scenario that all speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and assistants had to face as Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast in August 2005. Seeking to know more about policies other states had in place for professional mobility issues, I investigated both temporary licensure and courtesy practice procedures across the United States. Because of Alabama's location, many Louisiana and Mississippi residents decided to make Alabama their temporary and possibly permanent home. In the wake of the national crisis created by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, most southern licensure boards were bombarded with questions about emergency licensure options for speech-language pathologists and audiologists displaced by natural disasters. I performed the present research to help the Alabama Board of Examiners in Speech Pathology and Audiology examine their rules and regulations for situations such as this, as well as to look at trends across the United States.

The premise of this research was one question: Would a licensed professional be able to easily practice temporarily in another state? Initial telephone contacts with licensure boards revealed a need for a systematic and clear definition of the terms necessary to answer this question. Although some boards had representatives who answer the phone and answer questions on a full-time basis, many did not. Half (50%) of the boards' representatives were easily contacted, and they were knowledgeable. Fourteen percent (n = 7) of the boards had assistants who were available on a part-time basis only but were knowledgeable. Phone calls to the remaining 36% (n = 18) of the boards (a) were answered by an answering machine that referred to a Web site, (b) were answered by an assistant at a generic health-related professions office who was not knowledgeable about speech-language pathology or audiology, or (c) went unanswered despite multiple attempts. Talking directly to a knowledgeable person about a temporary license in every state was not possible; therefore, I searched each state's Web site for the data. Unless otherwise noted, the data presented here include Web site information.


After reviewing the rules, regulations, and laws in several states, it became clear that to answer the question posed, it would be necessary to collect subcategories of data. There are two ways displaced professionals can temporarily practice. Option 1 is through the use of some type of courtesy practice provision (e.g., practice for 30 days per year for a consult, teaching, demonstration, or the like). Option 2 is through a provision that allows a person to practice while his or her regular license application is being processed. The first set of data collected dealt with whether a state allows temporary practice without the concurrent processing of a license application. …