So, you want to work in a private SLP practice in Australia? Interview tips from @WeSpeechies!

Private practice interviews for speech pathologists

Every year in late spring, final year Australian speech-language pathology (SLP) students are heavily involved in the search for a job. Many consider working within a private (independent) practice, as an employee, or as a contractor, or as an independent practitioner. Some even take the bold but inadvisable step of going into private practice as sole practitioners, immediately following graduation.

Contributors

Four Australian SLPs contributed iteratively to the content on this page: "L", Bronwyn Hemsley, Caroline Bowen and Belinda Hill—all Certified Practicing Speech Pathologists (CPSP), but with different backgrounds and experiences in relation to private practice. The information here may be useful for Australian SLPs and those considering starting or joining a private practice work setting.

L’s contribution was from the perspective of a private practice employee, with 8 years’ experience as an SLP under her belt. 

Caroline drew on her 27 years of administering and working as a clinical SLP and frequent medicolegal "expert witness" in a metropolitan private, multidisciplinary, group practice, and then 10 years of sole clinical private practice in a regional setting. In her group practice all professionals were independent “entities” (sole traders) in the business sense, and the practice functioned as a cooperative, with some materials, equipment and expenses shared by the group, and some the property and responsibility of individual colleagues. Caroline has never employed other professionals.

Bronwyn’s questions reflect the perspective of an academic and mentor to new graduates and draw on her 20 years of private practice consultancy, primarily for medicolegal reports.

Belinda operates a private practice, employing a team of SLPs and an Occupational Therapist. Her roles include clinical oversight of the therapy staff and business management of the clinic. She welcomes clinical placement students in her practice and encourages other SLPs in independent practice to do so too.

What to ask, and when

Belinda offered a useful viewpoint as an employer considering applicants to private practice positions: "One thing I appreciate applicants having done prior is to preface their question with a statement highlighting relevance, rather than asking for because it is expected. So, they may note something they have read on a clinic's website and request specific/further information. It can be tiring if applicants ask for information that is readily available. Insightful questions can be a discriminating factor in finding suitable applicants".

Questions

The many questions provided below can be asked of the interviewer, either on the phone prior to an interview or during an interview for a role. The list is not exhaustive and not all questions will apply to all settings, applicants, or potential employers and workplaces. Interviews are often time-limited, but there may be opportunities to ask targeted, relevant questions before, during and after the interview, that help you to know whether you would like to work in that practice or not. The questions could also be used as a prompt for gathering information from a practice manager, a practice website, or from other publicly available documents including practice brochures.

Questions about the workplace and work conditions

  1. Who owns/manages the practice? Are they an SLP or another health professional? Are they familiar with guidelines available from SPA/AHPRA on things like ethics, supervision, report writing, social media, use of testimonials in marketing etc.?
  2. How will I be paid? Will I be an employee? Or a contractor? Or an independent private practitioner?
  3. Will I be paid a percentage, so much per consultation, or a salary, or will the income I generate come to me?
  4. What award is used for employment arrangements?
  5. What are the arrangements for leave?
  6. If there is a work laptop/tablet/mobile phone involved? What are the expectations about how often, and over what period, I will be contactable using those?
  7. How many days a week is the position? Would you expect me to increase my days/hours as the caseload increased? Would you expect me to reduce my days/hours if the caseload reduced?
  8. Will there be a formal agreement (legal document) for both parties to sign? Who drew up the document?
  9. Will I have to work out a probationary period with the practice and if so, for how long?
  10. Will I be expected to sign a document agreeing not to set up in private practice within a certain radius if I leave the practice, and if so, how many kilometers, and for how long after I leave?
  11. Does the practice have a superannuation scheme, and if not, what is advised?
  12. Does the practice have an insurance scheme covering building, contents, professional indemnity and public liability, and if not, what is advised?
  13. May I see your privacy statement?
  14. Are there administrative staff in the practice? What are their roles?
  15. Who books clients in? Who cancels or reschedules their appointments if I am sick, or something happens?
  16. Who has access to my clinical records (case notes; client reports) for the practice?
  17. Where would I do my paperwork? Am I expected to take it home?
  18. May I take clinical records home? Do I need to tell anyone before I do so? Must I sign them out and in?
  19. Who has access to my financial records for the practice?
  20. What equipment and resources are available? Who buys these? Would I get to have a say in what resources were purchased? Is there a secure space for me to store some resources of my own?
  21. Is there a fixed budget for resources or flexibility to purchase additional therapy materials?
  22. Who is responsible for cleaning the premises?
  23. Am I expected to accompany children to the toilet?
  24. Do you use accounting/practice management software? What is it? Will I have to learn to use it? What training is available?
  25. Will I have to contribute to expenses such as cleaning, rent, power, phone, Internet/WiFi?
  26. Will I be expected to issue invoices and receipts? How?

Questions about performance management / affiliations / memberships / registrations

  1. Need I be a registered as an NDIS provider?
  2. Need I be a registered as a My Health Record healthcare provider?
  3. Need I be registered as a DVA provider? Or any other private health insurance?
  4. Is there a requirement for me to belong to Speech Pathology Australia?
  5. Is there a requirement for me to be a CPSP?
  6. Do I need a Working with Children Check, a Medicare Provider Number, a First Aid Certificate, or similar?
  7. Should I apply for an ABN?
  8. What avenues are available for professional support/supervision?
  9. Is there a requirement for me to do a certain amount of CPD? Who pays for this? What happens if a CPD event falls on one of my work days?
  10. Do you conduct performance reviews? Please tell me about the criteria.
  11. Is mentoring provided?
  12. Is there a probationary period?
  13. Who has access to my clinical supervision records (e.g., my notes on my supervision)?
  14. Do you provide guidance on practice management?
  15. Are there opportunities for promotion or progression within the organisation?

Questions about service delivery

  1. What is the service delivery model (individual; withdrawal; school-based; domiciliary; group; telehealth)?
  2. What is the caseload mix?
  3. How does the practice advertise and otherwise promote its services? May I see? How will my services be promoted?
  4. How many clients will I need to see each day? Is there a target I need to reach?
  5. What is your client cancellation policy? Will my client be charged if s/he cancels? If yes, what are the exceptions?
  6. What are the fees for services, and is there any flexibility with them?
  7. Do you charge a fee for reports? Is it based on an hourly rate? Are report fees capped?
  8. Does the practice do any voluntary or pro bono work?
  9. Where do referrals come from?
  10. How are new referrals allocated?
  11. Will I do all my own assessments, or will clients be allocated to my caseload after another SLP has assessed them? I would prefer to do my own assessments, because...
  12. Will I be required to do things that generate referrals? For example, going to expos, talks to teachers’ staff meetings, preschool screenings, etc.). Will I be paid for those activities?
  13. What happens if I get a client who needs services that I cannot provide? For example, feeding, cleft palate, high tech AAC, other stuff I don't have the experience/skills/knowledge to handle on my own. Are there others on the team/in the practice who can see them/help me? If this help is not available, are you happy for me to help the client find someone more suitable?
  14. How are clinical outcome measures gathered and recorded, and where are they kept?
  15. If a client specifically asks to see me, will the client be allocated to me with no questions asked?
  16. Is there an expectation that parents/caregivers will "sit in on"/participate in sessions? Are parents discouraged from simply dropping their children off, and picking them up after their sessions?
  17. May I use Skype, Facetime, Facebook video chat, VSee, or other video calling to communicate with parents who are unable to attend sessions, or provide telehealth? Is telehealth possible from this clinic? Are signed indemnities necessary for this to happen?
  18. Are there any restriction on Internet, browser or email access and use on the work devices?
  19. Will I be expected to take SLP students on clinical placement? May I take SLP students on clinical placement if the opportunity arises?
  20. Do you take work experience students?
  21. Is there a practice policy regarding who receives reports? For example, do clients/parents/carers automatically receive a copy?
  22. Who are the other staff and what experience do they have? Are there any specific areas of expertise within the clinic?
  23. What other disciplines are involved in working with the SLPs here?
  24. Is there an opportunity for case conferences with the team?
  25. Are there opportunities for staff to work together with clients (as in multidisciplinary) or on group projects such as QI activities?
  26. Are there any opportunities for collaboration within the practice?
  27. Does the practice have an existing relationship with schools/preschools in the area?
  28. Is free WiFi provided in the building/clinic (for me/clients)?
  29. Are there any options for working from home for non-face-to-face workload?
  30. What happens if clients fail to attend / do not attend / cancel?
  31. What social media presence does the practice have and will I be expected to contribute to its network? does the practice have a ‘social media policy’ or ‘guideline’ for staff?
  32. What ‘outreach’ or ‘community development’ does the practice engage in?
  33. Does the clinic regularly support local community projects or fund raise for community organisations?

Resources from Speech Pathology Australia: Members benefit

The two pages linked below (in red) appeared in the December 2015 issue of Speech Pathology Australia’s Speak Out magazine, and have been uploaded here with kind permission of the association. Other resources relating to employment questions are available to members on its Professional Resources page. As a member-benefit, issues of Speakout can be accessed as Flipbooks and pages of interest can be extracted as pdfs.

Employment agreements: The basics for both sides in private practice: Page 1 and Page 2.

Links

SPA Private Practice Member Community Closed Facebook Group
Speech Pathology Australia

@WeSpeechies
Why storytelling is important in job interviews

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