How to Become an Effective ASHA Clinical Fellowship Mentor

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) clinical fellowship mentorship is a crucial part in becoming a clinical speech-language pathologist. This clinical fellowship experience marks the part of the journey where the clinical fellow gains professional experience through the supervision of a mentoring SLP.

Once the Clinical Fellow has shown confidence in applying their academic skills and training throughout the fellowship, they will then be ready to become an independent practitioner. First, there are a few factors that can make a strong CF mentor.

What Does it Mean to Become a Clinical Fellow Mentor?

Becoming a Clinical Fellow mentor involves various responsibilities and requirements. As the mentoring SLP, you will be the Clinical Fellow’s main source of guidance from providing effective communication to providing advice, guidance and feedback.

According to ASHA’s Issues in Ethics: Responsibilities of Individuals Who Mentor Clinical Fellows in Speech-Language Pathology, Clinical Fellow mentors retain the responsibility of making sure that the clinical fellow is properly applying their strengths, knowledge and training that they’ve learned throughout their academic journey to the fellowship experience. They must adhere to the ethics and standards of being a mentoring SLP and be willing to work with the Clinical Fellow to help them strengthen their independent skills.

In order to be a strong mentoring SLP, it is important that you retain the proper qualifications.

What Are the CF Mentor Qualifications?

Before taking on a Clinical Fellow, a CF mentor must meet general requirements. First, a CF Mentor must hold a current CCC-SLP, which is the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence for Speech-Language Pathologists. This will ensure that those who work with you, including the Clinical Fellow, know that you are certified and have the skills and knowledge to provide guidance and clinical services. The CCC-SLP must be maintained throughout the entire clinical fellowship experience.

Experience as a CF mentor is another qualification. After being awarded their CCC-SLP, mentors must have 9 months of full-time experience working as a speech-language pathologist. In addition, they also are required to have completed 2 hours of professional development in the area of supervision at least once after obtaining their CCC-SLP. Lastly, the CF mentor and the Clinical Fellow are not permitted to be related at all.

Mentoring SLP Roles in the ASHA Clinical Fellowship

As a mentor, there are general responsibilities that clinical fellowship mentors have. Some include: ensuring that the Clinical Fellow is improving their clinical skills by providing feedback and guidance, making sure that they maintain their CCC-SLP throughout the duration of the fellowship experience and making sure that they are properly providing records and feedback on time.

1: Assist Your Clinical Fellow in Determining Their Goals

There are some steps that mentoring SLPs can take to ensure that they serve as effective guides to their mentees. One step you can take is by sitting down with your mentee and discussing what their speech pathology career goals are.

As a mentor, this can help you get a clear idea of what steps need to be taken by you and your mentee to meet those goals. By having a clear idea of your mentee’s goals, you can monitor if those goals are being met throughout the fellowship. If your mentee isn’t close to meeting those goals, you can identify what needs to be done early on and provide the feedback needed for your mentee to meet the goals they created.

2: Perform Indirect and Direct Clinical Observations

During the clinical fellowship, a CF mentor must provide a minimum of 6 hours of direct clinical observation and a minimum of 6 hours of indirect clinical observation. This is to ensure that the rating of the Clinical Fellow’s independence skill is accurate on the Clinical Fellowship Skills Inventory (CFSI).

What is direct observation? Direct observation includes the observation of the Clinical Fellow doing activities such as making phone calls, interacting during meetings and conducting therapy practices with their clients.

What is indirect observation? Indirect observation involves the process where the CF mentor reviews the treatment plans, records, schedules and more of the Clinical Fellow they are mentoring.

Not only will these observations help the CF mentor record their mentee’s performance and skills, this will also ensure that the Clinical Fellow has the skills and practices needed to excel independently once the duration of the clinical fellowship is over.

 3: Help Improve Your Fellow’s Clinical Effectiveness

By performing ongoing evaluations of your fellow’s clinical skills, you will have the ability to improve your fellow’s clinical effectiveness. The ongoing evaluations will help you determine your fellow’s strengths and what areas they need to make improvements upon so that you can communicate those points to your fellow.

As a CF mentor, you can use your areas of expertise and your experience to help your Clinical Fellow improve. As a CF mentor, you are viewed as a guide by your mentee. Being open to your mentee about your own lessons that you’ve learned throughout your career and practice can serve as helpful.

 4. Discuss Concerns During Periodic Feedback Sessions

During periodic feedback sessions, you will have the opportunity to share meaningful feedback with your Clinical Fellow to assist them with their improvement. This feedback could be a result of some of the points you gathered while doing direct and indirect clinical observations.

Strong clinical skills are an important part of being an independent SLP as they will be administering those skills to their clients throughout their practice. It is important to be open with your fellow about what areas they are strong in and what areas they need more work in so they can take the proper measures to improve.

5. Complete the Clinical Fellowship Report and Rating Form

The final step in the clinical fellowship process is completing and submitting the clinical fellowship report and rating form. Before submitting the form, you should meet with your mentee and make sure that all of the recorded information makes sense. For example, if there is a low rating in an area on the form, explain to your mentee why they got that rating.

Everything on the form must be filled in as well as signatures from both yourself and your mentee. It is important that the form is completed and submitted in a timely manner so that there are no delays or returns of the application.

Advice for New ASHA Clinical Fellowship Mentors

Sometimes the best advice for new Clinical Fellowship Mentors can come from the feedback of participants in mentoring programs. Learning from previous mentors can help you develop a strong foundation of understanding on how to mentor effectively.

Additionally, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has an online mentoring program called S.T.E.P as well as a Mentoring Academic Research Careers (MARC) program. Below are some tips from previous ASHA clinical fellowship mentors on how to develop a strong mentorship-mentee relationship.

  1. Maintain Open Communication
    • Immediate communication amongst being paired with your mentee will allow you to start planning out your goals for the fellowship. It is also important that despite a busy schedule, to keep your lines of communication open between you and your mentee.
  2. Consider Face-to-Face Meetings
    • While communicating through email can be effective, face-to-face meetings can allow for a great opportunity for you and your mentee to work on your desired goals.
  3. Identify Each Other’s Needs
    • What are some of the needs that your mentee has? Defining your mentee’s needs can help strengthen the relationship between the both of you.
  4. Be Prepared to Provide Guidance and Support
    • Sometimes your mentee may need help defining their needs. As a mentor, you should be prepared to provide that kind of support.

By implementing the tips above, you can expect to have a strong, successful fellowship as well as a strong relationship with your mentee.

Tips for Returning ASHA Clinical Fellowship Mentors

If you are a returning clinical fellowship mentor, it is important that you remain consistent with ASHA policies through the association’s Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics serves as a foundation for mentors to uphold the highest degree of standards of those in this field as well as to protect the reputation of the profession.

The Code of Ethics includes ethical rules for CF fellowship mentors rooted in four principles. While there are qualifications and rules for CF mentors to follow, ethical mentoring will influence the quality of the fellowship experience between you and your mentee. Familiarizing yourself with the code can ensure you continue to have positive fellowship experiences.

What Are Clinical Fellows Looking For in a CF Mentor?

Clinical fellows count on their CF mentor to serve as an effective source of guidance and communication. Developing a good relationship with your clinical fellow can have an effect on their personal and professional development as they embark on a career of being a speech-language pathologist. To ensure that the mentorship with your clinical fellow goes smoothly, there are a few qualities you should be aware of having.

1: Someone Who Listens

As a Clinical Fellow, it is natural for them to have questions, concerns or the need for assistance at any point of the fellowship. As a CF mentor, it is important to listen to the information that your clinical fellow tells you as well as making sure you keep that information in your mind. You can use the feedback from your clinical fellow to enhance or make any adjustments throughout the duration of the fellowship. You can also use the information they tell you to track their improvement and help them meet their goals.

2: Someone With Good Observational Skills

Making it evident that you are paying attention to your clinical fellows’ challenges can mean a lot more to them than you think. A CF mentor who is attentive can identify their clinical fellow’s challenges and strengths that can be shared during feedback periods. Direct and indirect observation are some of the core responsibilities of the CF mentor during the fellowship, therefore, good observational skills are key.

3: Someone Who Provides Actionable Feedback

As a CF mentor, the feedback you provide to your clinical fellow can have an effect on their fellowship experience as well as their professional experience later down the line. Keep in mind that there are certain things that the mentee is expected to know and do on their own, however, informing them of some flaws can be beneficial to improve sooner rather than later. If your mentee is struggling, you can use that as an opportunity to step in and work with them to find solutions. 

4. Someone Who Shares Their Past Clinical Fellowship Struggles

A mentor who is able to open up to their clinical fellows about their own clinical fellowship struggles can help develop a relationship built on trust during the mentorship. If you are willing to open up about your past struggles, the clinical fellow will most likely be willing to open up to you in return. This will make it easier to get a clear idea of the areas your clinical fellow needs to work on and determine the solutions to help them meet their fellowship and career goals.

Information last update June 2020