Case study

Clinical scientist (audiology) — Emma

Emma reveals that excellent communication skills are vital for working as a clinical scientist in audiology. Find out more about working with patients suffering from hearing loss

How did you get your job in audiology?

I completed the Scientist Training Programme (STP), which takes three years to complete and includes clinical training and an MSc in Clinical Science. I completed the MSc at The University of Manchester and the clinical training at an NHS hospital within an audiology department.

As I was getting towards the end of my training programme, I saw a job advertised at the NHS site where I was training. I applied, was interviewed and got the position. This meant that I was able to transition straight into my role as a qualified clinician once my training was complete.

What's it like working in audiology?

My role is quite varied, although my main job is to see patients in a clinical setting. Most days I have at least one clinic; this might be an adult rehabilitation clinic, vestibular (balance) assessment clinic or electrophysiology clinic.

I also spend time looking at service development, e.g. writing protocols, carrying out audits and helping in the training of other healthcare scientists. Sometimes there is the opportunity to take part in local research projects.

What do you enjoy about your job?

My favourite part is seeing patients. I find it very rewarding when I'm able to help a patient who is struggling to hear well.

I also enjoy the variety of the many different clinics and patients. No two patients are the same and even those with a similar hearing loss will have different experiences and different difficulties.

What are the challenges?

Seeing patients is also probably the most challenging part of my role as sometimes a solution or improvement is not easy to find or implement. The patient may have the best hearing aids available that are set up optimally, but will still struggle. This is when I need to think about finding additional support, for example from a hearing therapist or by looking at additional supportive equipment.

Communication is essential as I need to make sure that the patient understands about the possible benefits of hearing aid use and the rehabilitation process they're going through. If a patient knows what to expect, they're likely to have better outcomes.

How relevant is your degree?

My neuroscience degree contained some aspects of sensory science, e.g. the hearing pathway, but the main relevance was learning scientific skills that I now apply in clinic.

My MSc, which is included in the STP training, was a prerequisite for my role and I use what I learned on a daily basis.

How has your role developed?

Since qualifying I've taken on more clinical responsibility and now have specific responsibilities, including the transition service, (which is the bridging service between children's and adults' audiology). I manage the referrals and waiting lists, and see the patients at this clinic.

I play a greater role in contributing to departmental policies and protocols and general organisation. I'm always learning and see more complex patients to try and help with their needs.

What are your ambitions?

I want to gain more experience in my role and learn as much as possible to ultimately try and become an expert in what I do.

Continuing professional development is important in my field. I would also like to learn more about cochlear implants.

What advice can you give to others?

Try to visit an audiology clinic (with a scientist if you can) to see if this is a role you would enjoy before applying.

Remember that applications for the STP are on an annual basis for all of the specialisms, including audiology. Training is intense so think about whether you're able to commit your time and effort before applying.

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