Internal Medicine and Family Medicine Physicians' Perceptions of Speech-Language Pathology
Jeanne, Nancy, Phillips, Daniel, Molt, Lawrence, Journal of Medical Speech - Language Pathology
Survey data were collected from internists and family medicine physicians in Alabama regarding their perceptions of and their working relationship with speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in medical settings. Of the 500 randomly selected physicians within the state of Alabama, 145 (29%) responded. This encouraging response rate illustrated that, overall, the results were positive in the physicians understanding and view of medical SLPs.
Keywords: survey, physician, speech-language pathology, perceptions, and partnership
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2007, the American Medical Association had reported that 32.5 of active physicians in patient care could be accounted for by the specialties with internal medicine accounting for 20.1% and family medicine accounting for 12.4% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). Approximately 39% of certified speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work in health care and social assistance (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). A strong partnership between these primary care physicians and the SLPs is vital for appropriate service delivery to patients in need of assessment and intervention for communication or swallowing problems. With the exception of one investigation conducted 30 years ago (McClausin, Florance, & Rabidoux, 1980), no studies have been published with the specific focus on how medical SLPs are perceived by physicians.
The McClausin et al. (1980) study surveyed 17 family practice residents in Columbus, Ohio, with regard to their knowledge of the professional services of SLPs. Their preliminary results suggested that although some of the physicians were familiar with SLPs' scope of practice at that time, more than half were uncertain of SLPs' level of education and training and were generally unable to identify how to make patient referrals for SLPs' services. Two other studies have been identified that included surveys of physicians; however, these targeted therapy services rather than the profession. Lesser and Hassip (1986) surveyed teachers, doctors, and nurses about their opinion and knowledge base with regard to speech therapy. Moran and Pentz (1987) surveyed otolaryngologists' opinion of voice therapy for vocal nodules in children. The current investigation sought to compare and expand on the original survey by McClausin et al. (1980) and to address questions regarding the SLP profession's progress in partnering with primary care physicians since 1980.
A mailing list of 500 specialists in internal medicine or family medicine was randomly generated from a listing of Alabama's Medical Association's public website. The 145 participants in this investigation decided to respond to a survey that was sent to them via regular mail service. The authors had decided to use the regular mail service rather than electronic mail in an attempt to minimize a bias in the respondents5 years of practice.
The survey instrument consisted of 20 closed-answer questions, such as, yes/no, single-answer multiple-choice, and multiple-answer multiple-choice questions (see Appendix A). Three main topics were covered within these 20 questions: (1) demographics of the physician respondent, (2) the respondent's familiarity with SLPs' scope of practice in medical settings, and (3) the respondent's current relationship (if any) with SLPs in medical settings.
In the random selection process 317 surveys, were mailed to specialists in internal medicine, and 183 surveys were mailed to specialists in family medicine. Of the 145 who responded to the survey, 85 were from internal medicine, and 60 were from family medicine. The data obtained from our 145 respondents (29%) are primarily descriptive with the application of nonparametric measures for some of the comparisons of interest.
The typical physician respondent was a male (83%) internist (58%) in practice for 16 or more years (72%). …