A Question of Productivity

Monday, October 28, 2013

In my district we have monthly speech meetings. We get together discuss updates, listen to a lecture to learn something new and sometimes debate issues in our field.

This last week the topic of PRODUCTIVITY came up. Can I get a dramatic *dun dun dunnnn*?
I do not own this image
 Okay, ALL most of us SLPs know we are "busy", but are we really as productive as we could be?

That is a good question. 

Our school psychologists are required to complete a form that shows how many students they have assessed and how many qualified. This determines the % of eligible students out of all we assessed. This basically shows us if we are assessing the right students. Makes sense, right?

Our lead SLP suggested that we start to keep track of how many screens we do, initials, triennials, (full team or speech only), hours of therapy, hours writing IEPs, hours writing IEPs at home, mentoring, consultations, staff meetings, phone calls, e-mails, lesson planning and so on...(forever right? haha so many things that we do!)

Immediately during this conversation I began creating a google form, in case we really wanted to try to keep track. However as the conversation continued, we were all thinking what is the point of doing this? 

Now you think about that....what if you were asked to keep a productivity log (like they do in the hospitals). Would you do it? Why? What is the benefit? 

Here are some thoughts: 

Pro: I think it would be a great way to track how many hours I really do spend at home. I could better assess if I am really doing as much as I think and compare myself to other SLPs. Maybe strive to be better? Maybe if I track all this information others (supervisors, principals, teachers) will notice how much we really do! Maybe I will get an aide or a smaller caseload? Maybe it will be incentive to work harder and more efficiently. It would keep SLPs accountable and make fairer workload/caseloads in the district.

Con: Will I be compared to other SLPs? If I am "not working as hard" as someone else will I be punished? What is the baseline? Where should I be? How much is too little? How much is too much? Will I get another school site? What is an appropriate "work load"? Who determines that? Maybe we won't get aides? Maybe supervisors, principals and teachers won't grasp how much we really juggle all aspects of our jobs, even if we list what we do. Maybe I will waste all this time tracking every last detail of what I do for no reason! What will it tell me? and will it actually make anything better?

We are not currently tracking, but we will be discussing it further and to determine answers to these questions. 

What do you think? Will it help? or not? Do you have to do this in your district? Do you like it? Why or why not? 

I am super curious as to what you all think. If you comment, I will randomly pick a comment (my husband will) and give you my new "Thanksgiving What am I?" game when it's done. Comment by Friday 7pm Pacific and leave your e-mail too.

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16 Comments »

16 Responses to “A Question of Productivity”

  1. I think that productivity can be useful when it considers everything that an SLP has to do-especially in terms of thinking of workload and caseload balances among therapists. I think that to be effective-you probably need to decide as a group the time frame to collect that data and what you hope to accomplish or use the data for. Otherwise you may just end up spending more time on just writing down what you are doing. The other benefit to productivity is it can sometimes to lead to improvements in other systems or help with time management. I come from a Rehab agency standard of productivity which was simply calculated as billable patient time vs. nonbillable patient time. That's where it gets really tough.

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    1. Kelly! I completely agree. I developed a Google Form to make it very easy to record the data. We discussed that if we are going to start collecting this information we would possibly start in January and track for the remainder of the year. Once a month we would track the data. I have kept track of #'s over the years (total IEPs, screens etc) but not month to month. I think the "what do we hope to accomplish" is a huge question. I too had to do billable patient time and nonbillable and that gets touch because in the schools it's a lot of both! Tricky. :)

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  2. I went into the school setting to avoid the stress of maintaining the insane levels of productivity that SNFs often require. I feel like everything I do at work has a point to it and impacts the services; however, I am not sure my special education director would get it.

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    1. Amy, my goodness! I agree everything we do has a point and is productive! I think we are being OVERLY productive and not being compensated. I am curious to log data and find out just how much we are expected to be doing and how far we exceed this. No wonder we are all stressed out!

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  3. We haven't done this in my district, but I did something similar last year for my SPED director. He was going to go to the Board and present the need for additional SPED staff, a new SLP included. I'm in early childhood and we do screenings every month, plus we get all the kids who turn 3 throughout the year from Infant/Toddler Services, so my caseload grows pretty quickly. Last year, I started the year with 22 kids on the 1st day of school (sent a ton of kids to kindergarten last year!). I ended the year with close to 50... with a lot of high needs kids, and kids who are only there for half days 4 days a week.. it made for some really difficult scheduling. I was also missing therapy time regularly for IEP meetings and for new evals (our eval kids would come in for one morning or one afternoon and that was it.. so I had to get everything done in a couple short hours, in between the ECSE teachers/OT/PT etc... assessments, too!)

    Our SPED director asked for an average per month of how many IEP meetings we attend, caseload sizes, etc... I was drowning and desperately needed help, so I went two steps further and broke it down by the following things:

    *caseload number per month (August-January) by # of students AND by # of minutes (line graph)
    *number of annual IEP meetings each month compared to # of initial eval meetings (bar graph)
    *how many minutes are available to see kids in a morning/afternoon session vs how many therapy minutes I was supposed to be providing (bar graph)
    *how many minutes of therapy per month I missed due to meetings/evals vs how many minutes of therapy I actually provided (pie graph)

    I did way more than he asked, but like I said-- I needed help and was drowning in all the paperwork, and my kids weren't getting the services they needed, nor the quality of services they deserved. He was impressed with the graphs, and used them in his presentation to the Board. We got another SLP and 2 SLP paras out of it! The new SLP took part of preschool (two A.M. classes, so she has all the IEP kids in those rooms and does the initial evals for any new kids placed in those rooms), and I have one of the paras. It has made a HUGE difference this year in my stress level! And, when I went to do progress reports this time around, most of my kids blew their goals out of the water. Amazing what consistent therapy does, right?!

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    1. Kari! I did the same thing on a smaller scale. I was a CFY and had 96 student, reevaluated students and dismissed 17! Lowered my caseload and held 107 IEPs in a year or more (can't remember now). My district rewarded me with another school site. I fought and threatened leaving and I am now pretty happy where I am. However, I have the transition 3 year olds, walk in preschool and state preschool and as you said you can start the year with only a few and spring comes around and BAM tons of initials. I would love to see your graphs and do something similar for my district. We even talked about only a few people collecting data at first to see how it goes and then have everyone try if they want. I think we would surprise our higher ups for sure with how much we do. I could NOT agree more about the consistent therapy...it's a struggle.....

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  4. This are all interesting things to think about. I know that accountability is big right now for my job. We have to keep an online calendar with who we see and their grade as well as how long and how often we see them. The calendar is suppose to keep tract of what we are doing but I know that it doesn't account for students I see in an intervention, or when I am working on paper work. My calendar doesn't even having IEP or MDT meetings on it. So it is lacking the details.
    This post has made me think about the time I have and how I use it. I know that I am always trying to do more but never sure if t is enough.

    Thanks Rachel for the "food for thought"

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    1. Thank you Carly! I agree, sometimes I am not sure if I am using all my time at work the right way. We get caught up or we are in the middle of doing something and get phone calls, or a teacher stops by. Our job is very unpredictable sometimes, hard to prepare and have enough time when we don't know what is coming down the pipe next!

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  5. My school generates productivity reports on the speech therapist as a way to determine how efficient we are being. This in turn determines how much funding we get from state and therefore how many speech therapists can be hired for the next school year. We have to indicate for each time slot whether we were in session, on prep or lunch. If a session is free because of student absence, we need to indicate if the student is absent from school or participating in some school related activity (i.e. class trip). If the therapist is not available for the session, we need to indicate a reason for this as well. This includes personal days, professional days, sick days or attendance at meetings (i.e. IEP or team meetings). In the past, we used to have to justify our "free" time, meaning what we were doing when a session was cancelled because of a student not being available. I don't know exactly what formula the school uses with this information but it is a complicated enough one that requires such a level of specificity of information for each session. I don't mind being asked to report because I am feel like I we are super busy and always have things due (i.e. progress notes, writing new IEPs, IEP updates).

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    1. Alison, thanks for the insight! I agree that I think we need to keep better track of sessions. I started doing that this year. I keep track of each session, what goals, what we worked on and if the session was missed exactly what the reason was. I do like the idea of having to put what I did instead! I usually end up doing screens during the half hour or write a report or prep for the rest of the day. Overall I do think tracking is a good idea because I honestly think we need more SLPs in our district and this would be a good way to find out if we really do...

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  6. I am a contract therapist working in two different school counties. For years I worked in the clinic and worked under the "produce or die" model. When we started taking on contracts in the school counties, I decided that's where I really wanted to be. It's interesting working as a contract therapist because I do have to document all of my time each and every day because it has to be billed to the various school counties and attached to a specific student. It's amazing how much "non-therapy" time I put in developing communication icons/boards, preparing for IEP's, etc., etc.

    Thanks for discussing a very important topic.

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    1. Vickie! Thank you for sharing about your experience as a contracted therapist! I am always so curious about how that works! I agree about the non-therapy time! As I sit here I have 3 reports next to me that I have to complete at home because i don't have the time at work. :(

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  7. We currently do not have to do this, but I can see it potentially happening as budgets get smaller. As is my district only employs 2 full time SLPs (I am one of them) and 2 part time SLPs. We are really pushing for 3 full time SLPs because we are stretched so thin. However, like everything else, data is necessary before funds would be released or the proposal even considered. Another concern that I have that Speech2U referenced is workload vs. caseload - not just in terms of contact, meeting, etc., but also in terms of student severity. It really boggles the mind!

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    1. Sharon, thank you for sharing! That is crazy that you only have 2 therapists! Is your district small. I think workload vs. caseload is HUGE HUGE HUGE. My district does not really use it the way intended, since i do not have more severe students my caseload isn't "as much" as it should be according to them, even though I have 60 regular education students! Luckily this year things changed and I am at one school. I think they are starting to get it. It's crazy! I think student severity has A LOT to do with it, and really need to be looked at. I worked in a district where they used workload/caseload it was awesome!!!

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