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Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders

Part 3:

Clinical Education: Observation Hours



Clinical Observation is an important part of the education program for students of speech-language pathology and audiology.  The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) requires that students complete 25 hours of supervised observation. Students must observe clients receiving services from ASHA-certified professionals.

Undergraduates in the the CSD Program are encouraged to complete a minimum of 25 hours of observation before the end of junior year. Observations are part of the preparation for CSD 4197: Clinic Practicum in Communication Disorders, which students take during Senior year. Students who have not completed 25 observation hours before taking CSD 4197 are expected to complete their observation hours by the end of the course.

Graduate students entering the CSD Program may not have accrued the requisite 25 observation hours, depending on the expectations of their undergraduate institution. Evidence of completion of the 25 observation hours is a course expectation of CSD 8397: On-Campus Graduate Internship in CSD I.

Students are encouraged to observe in a variety of settings to include education and health care facilities.  Audiologists and speech-language pathologists in these settings ofen welcome student observers.  Be mindful that observing a session is a privilege. The professional and client who invite you to observe are giving you an opportunity. As such, you will want to show your appreciation and be courteous in all interactions with the professional, the client, and others in the facility.

Observation Opportunities

  1. Complete Course-Assigned Observations and Independent Observations. Some of your observations will be completed through assignments in various CSD courses.  CSD 2400, CSD 3131, and CSD 3241 are examples of courses in which undergraduates will accrue observation hours.  Graduate students also may have observation opportunities in courses such as CSD 8230.  Work with your course instructor when observations are available through your courses.
    Other observations will be completed on your own.  The observations you complete as part of assigned courses will not be sufficient for meeting the requisite minimum 25 observation hours. In order to meet the observation requirement of 25 hours, you will need to complete some observations on your own. These are referred to as Independent Observations.  Work with the clinic director when you are completing independent observations.
  2. Observe On-campus and off-campus. Observations may take place at the Robert F. Pierce Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at UMD or they may take place in other school or health care settings. It is best to observe a variety of clients in diverse settings to get the best sense of the profession. 
  3. Professionals credentials are a must.  All observations must be completed under the supervision of a speech-language pathologist or audiologist who holds a current ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence and current state credentials.  You are responsible for ensuring the CSD Department has copies of both of these credentials on file in order for your observation time to count.

Observation Prerequisites

Before starting observation hours, undergraduate students in CSD must complete the following

  1. Complete Data Privacy Training Courses

    As a CSD student, you will have access to private information about clients.  The University of Minnesota, in accordance with Federal law, requires that you protect the privacy of individuals receiving health services.  you will be assigned a series a on-line courses on protecting private data, which you must complete before you observe or work with clients. These courses are required for CSD 2400.

  2. If you will be observing live sessions:
  • Complete an Orientation to Observation.

As part of your orientation, you will learn the process for arranging an observation session and documenting the experience so it counts toward ASHA certification and graduate requirements.

  • Obtain and wear a name badge

For client safety and confidentiality, all students who are active in the RFP Clinic must wear a name badge which identifies them as part of the CSD Program. This badge is obtained as a part of your mandatory practicum orientation, with a nominal fee charged by the UMD UCard Office.

General Considerations for Participating in Live Observations

Clinical observation is an important part of our student clinical education as well as clinical service activities. We encourage observation by authorized personnel, but students must be mindful of certain procedures which are designed to assure the rights and welfare of our clients.  Following are some considerations in arrangeing an observation, many of which apply to off-campus settings as well.

  1. Have a reason to observe. Sometimes a student who has worked with a client in the past may be tempted to observe a session out of curiousity. Idle curiousity is not an acceptable reason to observe.  If you have met the 25 observation hours and you wish to observe a session, please contact and gain permission from the clinic instructor of that client.
  2. Conduct yourself in a professional manner. When you contact a facility or when you enter any facility as an invited observer, you are a representative of the profession you are studying. As such, you are charged with conducting yourself in a professional and courteous manner. Be polite, appreciateive of the opportunity to observe.
  3. Follow the Procedures for Arranging Observations to ensure a positive observation experience. It is not acceptable to observe clients if you have not made previous arrangements. Observation areas are small and are easily crowded.  At times a session may be inappropriate to observe, as determined by the speech-language pathologist or audiologist providing the service. 
  4. Professional Credentials.  Students should observe professionals who hold a current ASHA Certfication of Clinical Competence and who meet state credentialing laws.  Your are responsible for providing copies of the professional's credentials to the department. Credential include ASHA Certification and State license. 
    ASHA Certification: You can get a letter of verification of current ASHA Certification by going to the following link and following the directions: Verify ASHA Certification.
    Minnesota License: In Minnesota, you can verify state credentials as well.  For professionals working in health care, go to Minnesota Department of Health.
    For professionals working in education through grade 12, go to Minnesota Department of Education.
    Other State Licenses: For professionals working in other states, you can ask the professional to provide you a copy of their state credentials or send a copy to the CSD Department.
  5. Plan ahead for your learning.  Consider what knowledge and skills you would like to develop as part of your observation.  Here are some questions to consider when observing:
    • How old is the client generally?
    • What is his/her communication disorder?
    • How easy was this cllient to understand when you first observed?
    • How would this client's communication disorder get in the way of everyday communication in the following domains:
      • Educational
      • Vocational
      • Social (family)
      • Social (friends)
      • Community contacts (e.g., shopping, making appts, etc.)
    • Did you observe an assessment or an intervention session?
    • If you watched an assessment,
      • What tools did the professional use? 
      • What communication or swallowing behaviors did the client present?
    • If you watched an intervention session,
      • What were the goals the client work on in the session?
      • What data system did the professional use? 
      • What methods did the professional use to help the client?
      • How did the professional or intern manage any behavioral issues?
  6. Dress appropriately.  Your university clinic dress code is appropriate for most settings. Wear your university clinic name badge during observations, so faculty, staff, interns, clients and families know you have observation privileges.
  7. Arrive early.
  8. Know where to meet.
  9. Conduct your self in a professional manner. 
  10. No Cell Phones.  Turn off your phones and refraing from talking or texting during your observations.  In some settings it is not sufficient to put phones on the "silient" mode; you must turn them OFF.
  11. Introduce yourself to clients, family members, professionals, as a student observer fulfilling course requirements. Be sure to wear your name badge.  it is professional courtesy to do so.
  12. All client information is confidential.  Under no circumstances is it appropriate to discuss your observationss with individuals outside the clinic setting.  When presenting information about your observation in class, refer to the client as "the person I observed" or similar rather than by name.  Do not discuss your observation with other professionals or people in other agencies.
  13. Review the Client File. If possible, you are expected to review the client case history file in the clinic office before completing the evaluation. This will make your observations more meaningful and will reduce the number of questions you have for the professionals and student interns. You may be prepared for a richer experience because you will have a deeper understanding of the client history, goals, and objectives.
  14. Observe silently and defer questions.  Avoid interjecting comments or questions in a session between the professional and the client or the client's family unless invited to do so.  Quesitona na dcomments about a session should be held until the client has left. If family members or other observers ask you questions about the therapy or disorder, politely explain that you are a student observer and not qualified to answer their questions at this time. Encourage them to direct their question to the clinic instructor or the student intern who is working with the client.
  15. Observe without judgment. When writing notes about clients' behavior or performance on observation sheets while observing, use descriptive, not judgmental statements. Be aware that family members may try to see what you are writing, so it is important to be professional and discrete.
  16. Document Observation Hours. Be sure to document your observation time and obtain professional signatures accordng to CSD Department procedures.

Procedures Specific to Observing at RFP Clinic

Because of its location on the UMD campus and its varied client base, the RFP Clinic is a popular choice for arranging client observations. In addition to students observing for their initial 25 observation hours, interns in practicum may observe clients with similar diagnoses as a part of their clinical practicum. Clinic instructors observe client sessions on a frequent and regular basis. A client´s family or care provider also may observe therapy sessions. Because of the heavy observation demand and in an effort to make observation experiences positive for everyone, the RFP Clinic asks that you use the followingprocedure to arrange observations

To Observe Sessions in the CSD Computer Lab:

  1. Complete orientation to learn how to use the lab. 
  2. Bring your own ear buds to observe the session.
  3. It is recommended that you watch sessions from the current semester, so you can identify the instructor who will approve your observation time.  If you watch a session from a previous semester, your time may not be approved. Submit your time to the instructor of the client. Information on assigned instructors is available in the clinic office.

To Observe Live Sessions in the CLINIC:

  1. Limit to two observers. To assure that there are no more than 2 student observers at a time for any session, please follow the procedures for arranging clinic observations. If there are already 2 CSD students signed up to observe a session, you will need to find another session to observe.
  2. Sign up to Observe.  Sign-up booklet is in the clinic office.  A new and updated list will be available for each week of the semester.  If client is crossed off the list, this means the clinicinstructor has determined that is an inappropriate session to observe.
  3. Cancellations are your responsibility.  Sometimes families cancel a session.  Sometimes a clinic instructor determines a given session is not in the best interest of the client.  In those events, the cancellation will be recorded on the Cancellations Log.  It is your responsibility to follow up on possible session cancellations or time changes.  You will not be contacted by the clinic.  Likewise, if you have signed up to observe and then have a change of plans, remove your name from the spot so anotherperson may sign up in your stead.
  4. Meet with interns or instructors. If you would like to discuss the case with the student intern or clinic instructor, please see them briefly following the session. Please reserve your comments and concerns about a session for the private meeting with the instructor or student intern. Others in the viewing room may be disconcerted or disturbed by your comments. Be aware that the intern or instructor may not be able to meet with you right after the session, and you may need to schedule a meeting for another time. All information discussed with the student intern or clinicinstructor is confidential.
  5. Turn off, pick up. Turn off the speaker and collect your belongings when you leave the observation suite. Because observation suites are fairly small, please refrain from bringing large bags and backpacks into the suite during your observation.
  6. Wear your name badge and follow the university clinic dress code.  Information on the dress code is in the section of the Handbook on the RFP Clinic.

Suggestions for Arranging Off-Campus Observations

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists in schools and healthcare settings often welcome student observers. The Considerations for Participating in Observation of Client Sessions are helpful guidelines to follow for any observation site.

  1. Contact the main office.  Every site has different rules for arranging an observation. If you are arranging your own observation, call the main office, introduce yourself and explain your position as a student in the UMD CSD Program. Ask to whom you might speak about arranging observations.   The office personnel will direct your request to the appropriate person.
  2. Inquire about, and take care of, any site-specific prerequisites.  Ask about any of these expectations and follow them.
    • Dress Code. Inquire about and follow the dress code guidelines of the facility in which you are observing.  Conservative clinic dress is apprporate for most sites. 
    • Orientation. Some sites require prospective observers to complete an orientation before they observe. 
    • Facility Procedures. Some sites require observers to check in wtih the main office before observing. Some facilities require observers to be escorted by staff while in the facility. Some require that observers where a name badge.
  3. Arrange a meeting place.  When you set up the observation,ask where you should meet the professional you will be observing.  Facilities have different rules about allowing guests access, and you may need to be escorted by the professional.
  4. Remember Professional Credentials.  All observations must be supervised by a speech-language pathologist or an audiologist who holds a current Certificate of Clinical Competence and who holds any required state credentials. 
  5. Remember to document observation hours.  The professional must sign your Daily Observation Record as proof that you completed the observation. See information below on documenting observation time.


Observation Documentation Requirements

You will complete main two types of observation documentation.

  1. You will document what you observed and learned through classroom assignments or independent worksheets.  No client identifying information (name, case history #, date of birth) may be on any written observation notes.
    • If you observe for a class, complete the class assignment as specified by the instructor for that course. No other observation worksheet is needed if you are observing as part of a class assignment.  
    • If you observe independently (not as part of a class), complete an Independent Observation Worksheet as a record of what you learned.
      Print and use this form to document notes for Independent Observations:
      Independent Observations Documentation

      If you observe an assessment, fill out the Diagnostic form.  If you observe therapy, fill out the Treatment form.   These worksheets must be submitted to the clinic director at the end of the semester for approval.

  2. You will document your accrued observation time on-campus and off-campus.
    • If you observe on-campus, enter your observation time into the CSD Clock Hours Database.
    • If you observe off-campus, you must keep a hand-written Daily Observation Log.  You need to get signatures from the professionals you observe.
      Print and use this form to record time accrued for off-campus observations:

      Off-Campus Observation Hours Record
      (Word Document)

      Why a hand-written record for off-campus observations? Not all professionals are in the CSD Clock Hours Database, so a hand-written record is the most efficient way to gain approval of your off-campus hours.  This frees you up to observe any professional who meets the credentialing requirements.  At the end of the semester, you submit your documentation to the clinic director for transfer into the CSD Clock Hours Database.

    See below for more information on completing Observation Hours Documentation.


Documentating Observation Hours

Students are responsible for keeping a record of all observation hours and for making sure observation documentation is accurately and thoroughly completed.  All observations must be supervised by a speech-language pathologist or an audiologist who holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence.

RFP Clinic: Document Observation Hours in the Clock Hours Database

  1. Enter each RFP session you observe into the Clock Hours Database.    For each observation you enter, the clinic isntructor of that client will approve your entry, as proof that you completed the observation.  Full instructions for using the CSD Clock Hours Database are available in the Help Documents after logging into the database.
  2. Videos in class may count.   If you watch a video in class, this time may count for observation hours.  Ask your course instructor if the video counts toward your observations.  If it does, then enter the observation into the database and select your course instructor as the person to approve the hours.
  3. End of Semester.  At the end of the semester, make sure you have entered all of your hours by the due date.  The clinic instructors will approve your Semester Observation Hours reports.  Scan these approved reports into your ePortfolio for your records.
  4. Follow your progress toward 25 hours. To check on the total number of hours you have accrued, go to the Degree Clearance Report and look at the total observation hours.

Off-Campus: Document Observation Hours by Paper  Daily Observation Record

  1. Fill in the CSD Department Daily Observation Record.  Hand-write the type of observation and amount of time on the record.  Have the professional sign the record.
  2. Use INK.  Because the Daily Observation Record is an official document applied toward your degree, please make all entries in ink. Avoid using pencil to document observations. 
  3. At the end of the semester, send a pdf and submit the original documents to the Clinic Director.  At the end of the semester, you will submit a pdf of your paper documents of off-campus observation hours to the Clinic Director.  You also will submit the hard copy paper The Clinic Director will enter your off-site hours into the CSD Clock Hours Database.


Transition to Practicum

In your junior year, as a part of CSD 3241: Foundations of Treatment in Communication Disorders, you will be teamed with a clinic intern and a clinic instructor for your initial case management experience. You will observe an assigned client for a number of sessions, and you will have the opportunity to participate in a therapy session at the end of the experience, under the supervision of a clinic instructor.


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Last modified on 04/21/14 01:20 PM
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