This study examined factors contributing to Utah's critical shortage of school-based speech-language pathologists. Specifically, this study focused on the following three constructs: (a) stress levels among professionals currently in the field, (b) attrition and the reasons professionals leave their positions, and (c) factors at the university level. Stress among Utah's speech-language pathologists was assessed using the Speech-Language Pathologist Stress Inventory (Fimian, Lieberman, & Fasteneau, 1991). Of the 230 potential participants, 97 completed and returned questionnaires. Results indicated that Utah's school-based speech-language pathologists experience less overall stress than a normative sample of speech-language pathologists throughout the United States; however, Utah's professionals reported significantly greater stress related to caseload, salary, and use of prescription drugs. However, overall stress was not related to caseload size or the number of service delivery sites. In regard to how various aspects of burnout were related, a weak positive relationship was found between years of experience and Time and Workload Management. Overall, Total Stress appeared to be most strongly related to Lack of Professional Supports. Attrition was investigated by distributing an existing survey to the special education directors of Utah's 40 school districts, who reported the status of speech-language pathologists employed in their respective districts. All 40 of the directors responded to the survey. Based on their report, 67 of the speech-language pathologists left their positions during the 2004-2005 school year, representing 14.5% of Utah's school-based speech-language pathologists. The top reasons indicated for speech-language pathologists leaving their positions were (a) moved, (b) children/pregnancy, (c) changed district within state, (d) retired, and (e) left education. Finally, the directors of Utah's three university graduate-level speech-language pathology programs were surveyed to assess factors at the university level that may be contributing to the shortage. All three directors responded to the survey. The mean number of applicants over the three-year period in question was 186 per year, and of these, an average of 111.3 or 60.0% was accepted. From these three combined programs, an average of 67 students graduated each year, and approximately 30 to 40% of these graduates initiated practice in Utah's schools. Data from one of the three programs, Utah State University, indicated that the addition of an outreach program significantly increased their number of graduates.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





Utah, shortage, speech-language pathologists, stress, attrition, school, burnout, caseload, support