Behind the SLP Shortage: Meeting Speech Pathologist Demand

Behind the SLP Shortage: 7 Tips for Meeting Speech Pathologist Demand

With a rate of job growth that’s among the fastest in the country, speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have become some of America’s most in-demand clinicians. However, they are also some of the most scarce for high-need facilities in 2024, including schools and post-acute care. As need continues to rise, what can be done to minimize the effects of the nationwide SLP shortage?

Discover the major drivers behind the impending SLP shortage in 2024. Plus, explore five solutions for schools and other facilities to meet the rising speech therapy staffing demand.

Why Is Speech Pathologist Demand Surging?

Describing the job growth rate for SLPs as “much faster than average”, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the rate of that growth to be 19% between 2022 and 2022. That means speech pathologist demand will only intensify in the years to come, making solutions imperative. But what’s driving this demand? The answer lies in the convergence of a few critical trends.

More Turnover Amid an SLP Shortage

Cited as a “lucrative career option” for people who want to work in special education, speech pathology attracts many passionate and dedicated workers. But many others understandably see the job as a stepping stone to other, higher-paying careers. For instance, Those who work in schools frequently transition to clinical settings, while others seek positions such as director of specialty services in autism therapy. The result is significant yearly turnover, driving a need to continuously source and hire new SLPs.

Moreover, the SLP shortage is arguably more prominent in school environments. One 2023 study found that turnover among school-based SLPs is driven by dissatisfaction with the work environment, “role ambiguity,” inadequate pay, and a workload that’s doesn’t given them enough time for lesson planning or paperwork.

More Practice Areas

Speech-language pathologists treat a wide variety of conditions, working with patients of all ages. Besides schools, hospitals, and long-term care (LTC) facilities, SLPs also work in pediatric centers, inpatient rehab facilities, and other facilities that provide post-acute care. However, as the survival rate of victims of stroke and trauma improves, so too does the demand for trained speech language pathologists to help these patients recover.

As care continues to shift to the home, demand will also grow for SLPs with telehealth skills, and those who can work on a part-time or contract basis. Additionally, many regions have experienced an increased need for SLPs who can speak multiple languages.

Meanwhile, in the school setting, the growth in special education mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) continues to supercharge the demand for speech pathologists. Subsequently, though, this can be difficult for schools to meet with a growing shortage of specialized SLPs.

More Patients, Young & Old

Trends affecting both the oldest and youngest Americans are also driving speech pathologist demand. As the segment of the public aged 65 and older gets larger, so does the need to treat more conditions associated with this population, including hearing loss, recovery from stroke, and neurological conditions affecting speech-language skills. As a result, demand continues to spike in places where retirees live.

New mandates to achieve “early identification and diagnosis of hearing disorders” among newborns is also driving a need for more SLPs to help care for the youngest segment of the population. Additionally, improving rates of survival for premature infants leads to the need for “assessment and possible treatment” by SLPs, as the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) points out.

How to Meet Speech Pathologist Demand

Unfortunately, rising demand for SLPs hasn’t always corresponded to an increased supply, especially in rural areas. So, what can employers do to meet the challenge? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are a number of steps that can be taken to mitigate the effects of a nationwide SLP shortage that may only get worse.

#1: Improve Compensation and Benefits

Unwelcome though it may be, the need to offer the industry standard in pay and benefits can be the most sensible starting point. In a competitive market, there’s attracting skilled and highly educated workers can be a challenge. For instance, SLP jobs require a Master’s and sometimes even a PhD, but often with lower compensation than other specialized therapy roles.

Therefore, offering extra perks like signing bonuses or premium benefits (like extra vacation, educational reimbursement, or other financial perks) can help meet speech pathologist demand for facilities.

#2: Improve Culture and Professional Development

Employers can also better attract and retain SLPs by improving the parts of their culture that fuel job satisfaction. For instance, they can offer flexible scheduling that allows for a better work/life balance or complimentary mental health services. Expanding professional development opportunities such as support for CE and other educational programs, can also help provide job fulfillment and satisfaction.

#3: Start a School Program

Implementing a partnership with a school that offers Master’s degrees in speech pathology can help meet speech pathologist demand and ensure a future supply of SLPs for employers. Such partnerships also empower employers to secure a direct pipeline to local talent with a new generation of clinicians.

In return, employers can help schools with resources, hands-on training, and lifelong learning programs, all of which can benefit all parties involved.

#4 Utilize Nationwide Resources

Winning the fight against the SLP shortage means understanding every available option. For instance, every state offers funding for speech-language programs through the Federal Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant. For schools struggling to recruit SLPs, that could help provide a more attractive salary or fund a more robust benefits package.

In addition, the Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact (ASLP-IC) is expected to go live later this year. A true game-changer for meeting speech pathology demand, the Compact would allow licensed SLPs to practice freely in any member state.

#5: Partner with a Workforce Expert

Lastly, a dedicated SLP staffing partner can help healthcare employers understand these options and maximize the benefits they offer. They can also help provide access to a much bigger pool of SLPs who are already vetted, verified, and ready to work.

Perhaps most advantageously, though, partnering with an established healthcare workforce solutions provider can help employers meet speech pathologist demand with contingency workers. Doing so helps offset the effects of absenteeism and turnover with a direct source of temp workers.

Additionally, it helps employers achieve a more flexible workforce — and a better culture — by giving core staff more opportunities for personal time while meeting the rising need for SLPs.

Meet Speech Pathologist Demand Now

Facing an SLP shortage at your facility? At CareerStaff, we’ve got you covered whether you need a full-service healthcare workforce solutions partner or an immediate source of speech pathologists to meet increasing demand.

Contact us today to find out how our Joint Commission-Certified staffing solutions can help meet the need at your facility — or request SLPs now below.