Paradoxical perceptions towards the introduction of assistants in speech-language pathology and potential impact on consumers

Rachael O’Brien, Rebecca Mitchell, Nicole Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale and aim: Working with assistants has the potential to be an economically and professionally sustainable solution to workforce shortages in speech‐language pathology. However, there is some resistance to the workforce redesign, and factors that determine how assistants are utilised are not well understood. The aim of this study was to understand the perceptions that engender professional resistance and identify factors that may lessen such resistance.
Method: Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 20 speech‐language pathologists (SLPs) to learn about perceptions towards implementing assistants into the profession.
Findings and discussion: While assistants were seen as augmenting existing capacity, findings demonstrated ambivalence towards their utilisation, with tension between perceived benefits and risks of SLPs utilising assistants. Sharing workload and reducing administrative duties in favour of increasing clinical output was an important positive perception. However, this perception was moderated by the concern that the introduction of assistants would result in a decrease in consumer focus, which was seen as being at odds with the strongly held values of the profession. Findings provide insight into professional acceptance of this vocationally trained group and highlight discrepancies between perceptions and actualities, both of which may influence how assistants are utilised. They suggest that implementation of a workforce redesign involving assistants may result in paradoxical perceptions among SLPs. Understanding the way SLPs think about working with assistants and how this workforce redesign may be realised will impact on how SLPs view their role and their relationships with co‐workers. This understanding will also be useful in a wider sense for organisations seeking to introduce assistants, by allowing enhanced understanding of likely areas of resistance, as well as highlighting possible strategies that may be useful to address such issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • assistants
  • workforce redesign
  • speech-language pathology
  • polarisation
  • perceptions
  • consumer
  • organisation


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