The past three years as an audiology student have been extremely rewarding but also challenging. Swansea is at least three hours away from my family and moving here was a difficult decision. It was however, one of the best decisions I have made! Within the first two months of the degree we had completed our first two week audiology placement, completing a total of 10 weeks in our first year and 21 weeks in our second year. This hands-on approach incorporating academic teaching between placement blocks allowed me to develop my skills in adult audiology, audiological rehabilitation and vestibular testing. Additionally, the breadth of placement allowed me to develop my communication, empathy, and social interaction skills, as well as explore the entirety of Wales as a country. Additional practical sessions in the Swansea University Health and Wellbeing Academy also helped to solidify my practical skills.
I was 10 weeks into a 25 week placement when the Covid-19 pandemic started in the United Kingdom. The suddenness of being taken off placement indefinitely, coupled with numerous deadlines, exams and my dissertation, was overwhelmingly stressful. Mental health is an important consideration for all students, studying such a demanding but rewarding degree meant that it was sometimes too stressful. I found my coping mechanism to be meditation through creative arts (such as dancing and painting) as well as journaling. In addition, I received incredible support from the university through weekly Zoom calls and updates regarding the completion of the course.
I have been privileged enough to be able to recently return to my placement to finish off my paediatric and final adult logbook competencies. As an experienced student audiologist, I am expected to work alongside the audiology team, wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE) during appointments. Through this placement I started viewing myself as a practitioner rather than a student, developing the skills and confidence to make decisions and integrate as a member of the department. I also learned the importance of being able to interact with patients remotely (through telephone consultations) and adapting communication technique with a mask on. I have felt my passion for audiology has only been made stronger by the challenges I have faced on this degree. In conclusion, being an audiology student is difficult especially during these times. However, I know that staying up to date on professional developments and adapting to the new procedures will mean the safest and best practice for our patients and the highest standards for myself as an audiologist.