Pursuing a career in Audiology with the help of The University of Manchester

The three-year Audiology degree at Manchester offers students practitioner-level training and a qualification accredited by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), the Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP) and the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS). This accreditation allows our graduates to work within both the NHS and the private sector after finishing the course. Annie Woolley is a graduate of the programme and below she discusses how she found the course, and how it has led to a career working with deaf children and adults…

Growing up and at school, I had always taken a keen interest in science, particularly Physics. I loved finding out how things work and following my A-levels, I took up a place to study Physics at The University of Manchester. Manchester is my hometown, so I’d always known that it is a great city to study in and that the University has a really strong reputation. I really enjoyed the course, but health issues led me to take some time out.

During the break from studying, I worked in retail and enjoyed the buzz of meeting new people, finding out what they were looking for and helping them to find it. When I felt ready to go back to university, I was looking for something that would combine both these interests and, especially as I was a little older, offer a clear career pathway. Audiology ticked all these boxes.

As I did more research into the Manchester Centre for Audiology and Deafness, I found out that the department has a long history of pioneering education in the field, as well as being recognised for the quality of its teaching and research. The course offered an exciting combination of classroom teaching, practical sessions and clinical experience from the first year. I didn’t need to look any further!

I really enjoyed completing the BSc in Audiology. As well as teaching from experienced university staff and researchers, we benefitted from local professionals sharing their clinical knowledge. One such module led to me and a group of colleagues presenting an audit we completed at the British Academy of Audiology annual conference. Needless to say, we were nervous beforehand, but the opportunity to share our research and attend one of the biggest events on our professional calendar was too good to miss. We learnt a lot, made a lot of professional contacts and had fun!

Other highlights have to include the placement year. I loved seeing patients and found that the experience really brought together all the academic teaching and practical sessions we had done on campus. The opportunity to work in different departments, including the cochlear implant team at Manchester Royal Infirmary, really helped me to know what I was looking for in my career.

During my degree, the training routes in Audiology changed in line with the NHS Modernising Scientific Careers initiative and the Scientist Training Programme (STP) was launched. This offers a funded MSc and paid three-year clinical education programme to become a Clinical Scientist. Not only would I develop my skills in specialist areas of Complex Adult Assessment and Rehabilitation, Balance and Paediatrics, but I would also have rotations in new areas including Vision Science, Clinical Assessment and Investigation and Neurophysiology. Recruitment is on a national level and competitive and the training programme is intensive but I knew I had to go for it.

I was fortunate enough to get a place to complete my clinical training in Nottingham and my MSc through The University of Manchester. I felt so reassured to know that I would be able to continue my studies here and I was right to have that confidence. Although the teaching is very different to the undergraduate programme, with only short blocks on campus and the majority of learning online, the University made sure we had access to all the resources that we needed and ensured that we had opportunities to keep in touch with our peers on the course across the country.

I was very lucky to work with experienced researchers at the Nottingham Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing for my MSc project and the findings were written up for publication in the International Journal of Audiology. The programme is very demanding and keeping up with the clinical learning and associated portfolio alongside completing an MSc is tough. However, completing the course and learning more about the wider NHS and new specialisms, has both quickly advanced and enhanced my career in Audiology.

Following completion of the STP, I successfully applied for a six-month maternity cover post at Yorkshire Auditory Implant Service (YAIS). I was excited to learn about cochlear implants and gain valuable experience working with severe – profoundly deaf children and adults. Working in a cochlear implant team means working closely in a multidisciplinary team including Consultant ENT Surgeons, Speech and Language Therapists, Teachers of the Deaf and Audiologists to ensure that every patient can achieve the best possible outcome with their device.

I enjoyed following the progress of patients as they went through the cochlear implant process and was delighted when the opportunity arose for a permanent position. My department is involved in international research and there is always something new to learn! A typical day might involve going into theatre to check the function of the cochlear implant during a patient’s operation, assessing a patient’s suitability for cochlear implant or programming their device to ensure they have good access to speech.

A recent highlight was being involved in switching on cochlear implants for a six-month-old baby girl, deafened by meningitis, and a 92-year-old man, both in the same day. There is no shortage of variety and, although I have now been working at YAIS for five years, I continue to enjoy working with new and long-term cochlear implant users.

My advice to current students would be to make the most of the opportunities that are available during your training, both as part of the course and extra-curricular. During the summer holidays in my BSc, I volunteered on a Sense holiday to support a young deaf-blind adult to take a trip with peers and completed an Action on Hearing Loss research project. These experiences gave me a deeper insight into the challenges of hearing and visual impairments in day-to-day living and helped me when I made the step up to M-Level study, as well as making my CV stand out.

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