I think like most people fresh out of University, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my career. Simply put, I felt lost. I had a degree in Biomedical Materials Science, which I found fascinating, but wasn’t really sure what to do with it and where to go next. I ended up taking some much needed time off, but soon after I started floundering and stressing on what on earth I wanted to do as a job. I looked to friends, family, really anyone who would listen, asking them for advice and how they decided what career to pick. Lots of people followed their degree and applied for jobs associated to them, however my degree was so varied, it didn’t enlighten me anywhere beyond thinking: “I want to do something in healthcare”. So, what next?
Well, after many personality and career quizzes online, and researching lots of healthcare related roles, I became overcome with analysis paralysis. I decided that while research was good, it could only get me so far. I needed some first-hand experience to see what I actually enjoyed. I tried a few things like teaching, but each experience left me feeling that I was lacking something… I later connected with a friend from my degree, where she told me she went into audiology and was loving life! I had done a small part of audiology previously, something I was only a little familiar with but remembered enjoying the lab experiments and the found the theory interesting. Jumping on this new idea, I got as much work experience as I could get my hands on, where I managed to get placements within the NHS and with a few private companies. During my placements, I learnt so much about what the day-to-day job of an audiologist actually entailed and saw people thrilled to be hearing so much better. This seemed almost too good to be true – face to face client work where I could help people improve their quality of life, varied appointments so no day would be mundane, as well as healthcare and people orientated like I wanted.
It was then I set myself to find out how I could get into audiology the best way that suited me. I needed to somehow source an audiology degree. As this wasn’t my first degree, I needed to find a form of sponsorship to get on the right track, and after interviews and lots of research, I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by Boots Hearingcare for a Foundation degree in Hearing Aid Audiology. Initially I was trained internally as a hearing care assistant with Boots, where I learnt the basics of the anatomy of the ear, physics of sound transmission, as well as practical skills like otoscopy and impression taking. I still remember the first task after meeting my new colleagues. We had to go straight in for otoscopy and get over any fear or nerves we had – It was a great ice breaker! After passing this initial training, I started work in a clinic of my own, as well as studying and having plenty of mentor and supervisor days. It was terrifying and exhilarating having my own clinic for the first time, but an experience I am forever grateful for as I got first hand valuable experience of how to service and troubleshoot a plethora of different hearing aids and how to act in a client facing role. Whenever I needed help or felt unsure, my supervisor and mentors were right there to offer helpful advice and encouragement, allowing me to build my confidence within my own clinic. I was also fortunate to gain invaluable feedback and constructive criticism from them, aiding me in improving my clinical knowledge and communication skills which I would need to emulate when I became a fully qualified audiologist.
Not long after starting my clinic as a hearing care assistant, I was sent off to Aston University once a month for a week of intense training and lectures. While it was challenging, I loved my time at University, and was able to catch up with my colleagues on the course and see how they had been fairing in their clinics. We were a tight knit group that supported each other through all the trials and tribulations of University assignments and practical lab assessments. We were such a varied group as well of all ages and backgrounds, most of us coming from different careers and finding audiology at different stages of our lives. As such, whenever one of us felt uncertain in our abilities, we were quickly supported by the rest of the group, helping us to grow and improve as people as well as future audiologists. During my time there I know I made friends for life, and even now as qualified audiologists in different parts of the UK, we still talk often and support each other every day in our respective clinics. Before I knew it, the time I spent at Aston flew by, and we suddenly faced our final practical and written exams, praying that all our hard work and late-night study sessions would see us through. In between University, my supervisor prepared me each day to take over more and more of a full clinic, and by the end I was handling the entire clinic day as if I were already qualified. It was a fantastic experience where I felt so prepared to just get stuck in and have my own clinic in my own store! I just needed to pass my exams… As such, I am pleased to say that I achieved a First-Class grade in Foundation degree Hearing Aid Audiology!
Over the past year since graduating, I registered with the HCPC and took over my own clinic in my assigned store, and had a strange but fun online graduation ceremony. I feel I have now settled in comfortably with my role as an audiologist and have been working hard to provide all my clients with the best patient-centred personalised care I can provide, aiming to improve the quality of life of all my clients. With the advent of COVID-19, I feel this has been especially important, as many people are relying on Zoom calls etc to connect with their loved ones during this difficult time, making it more important than ever to hear and communicate well. Clinical work during this time was a difficult transition, much like it has been for everyone. However, I have been supported by Boots throughout this time and have been provided with plenty of PPE to keep both myself and my clients safe, allowing me to still provide the best care possible in the ever growing and changing world of audiology.
I am now thrilled to be a part of the BAA Early Professionals Committee, where I hope I can help any prospective students or recent graduates navigating through the world of audiology. I didn’t take the typical pathway to get to my career and where I am at now, so I hope that my experiences prove useful for those looking into alternative routes into audiology. I am more than happy to have a chat with anyone interested in knowing more, and will try my very best to provide some helpful advice!