Megan Blythe: an inspirational RVN
HR, Nursing, Veterinary Professionals
6th May 2020
Megan Blythe talks about her experience of working as a Wards Nurse within a busy referral practice and the equipment that has helped improve her working life.
Since I started my training in 2013, I have always had a passion for medical and critical care nursing. When the opportunity to work as a Wards Nurse for Davies Veterinary Specialists came along last year, I knew it was the job for me. However, I did have some anxiety about the job being suitable for me as I am deaf.
Firstly, I should explain the importance of the difference between being deaf and being Deaf. Being Deaf with a capital ‘D’, applies to people who are culturally Deaf and part of the Deaf community (O’Neill 2003). They use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language and (depending on the individual) often English as their second language. Being deaf with a small ‘d’ applies to people whose deafness is acquired rather than congenital and something to be treated or eradicated. This covers a large range of conditions and severity. People who fall into the deaf category may also describe themselves as Hard of Hearing (HoH). People who are deaf often wear hearing aids to improve their hearing ability and English will be their first language and will usually lip-read. I think one of the questions I am asked the most is “do I know BSL?” The answer is I know enough to get me through a conversation or two now but do not get to practice it enough. However, my first language is English and I largely rely on my hearing aids, lip-reading and body language.
Working in a referral hospital
I have been working at Davies Veterinary Specialists since August 2019 as a Wards Nurse and I absolutely love it. On a day-to-day basis, I provide care to the patients in my ward and communicate with clinicians about their treatment. I have seen so many new things since I started working at Davies and feel that my nursing skills and knowledge have improved massively. I care for patients across the disciplines from neurology, orthopaedics, internal medicine, ophthalmology, oncology and also for some of the very sick animals in the new intensive care unit. My favourite cases are those in internal medicine and intensive care, and I also love my weeks in the ICU.
There have been a number of challenges that I have had to overcome such as struggling with noisy environments, phone conversations and group meetings. Every day we do morning rounds where the wards nurse presents the patients to the vet in charge of the case. This was tough for me and I would often rely on my supervisors to pass on to me what was said. I was also unable to answer the phone if the noise levels were high in the prep room – which as we all know is most of the time! However, when speaking to my audiologist I was advised about a scheme called Access to Work. This government scheme allows people with disabilities to apply for grants for equipment to help them in the workplace. I applied for the grant and after an assessment at work, received the government funding towards my equipment. Davies Veterinary Specialists have kindly topped up the rest of the money needed to purchase the equipment I needed, something I would never have been able to afford on my own.
The pieces of equipment I received include:
The Phonak Roger Table Microphone
This table microphone uses Bluetooth to connect straight into my hearing aids. I use this for meetings that we have in practice, a great example being team talks and CPD events. It is especially helpful if multiple people are taking it in turns to talk. It is barely noticeable on the table and is very lightweight. It also has a useful option of increasing the range of voices it picks up, meaning that I can increase or decrease the range depending on how far away I am sitting from the speakers. The main advantage of using this piece of equipment is that on top of streaming directly into my hearing aids, it also eliminates background noise. That is such a major bonus that I will use the table microphone even if I’m just with two or three people. I find I can keep up in the conversation and miss far less of what is going on.
The Phonak Roger Pen
This small pen-like piece of equipment has to be my favourite. I use it in situations where there is one speaker and it streams the voice directly into my hearing aids and blocks out the background noise. This means I don’t have to rely on lip-reading so much, which can be very draining. It is really difficult to explain to someone who has full hearing how amazing it is. But I imagine it would be like the difference between listening to a song on a radio, that is on quietly in the corner of a loud busy room, compared to listening to the same song through earphones.
Another thing this little device can do is attach to phone adapters that have been installed into the work phones. This means when I am speaking on the phone, the speakers’ voice will be streamed directly into my hearing aids. This means I can speak on the phone, even in a busy environment. Now, thanks to the Roger Pen, I can manage in morning rounds without help and I can take phone calls regardless of the noise levels – giving me so much more independence at work.
What is Access to work?
Access to Work is a government scheme to help those with disabilities in the workplace.
The type of support available is shown below, for me, this included the specialist equipment to use alongside the hearing aids I was already using and adaptations to equipment used at work.
Access to Work can provide:
- Adaptations to the equipment you use
- Special equipment or software
- British Sign Language interpreters and video relay service support, lip speakers or note-takers
- Adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work
- Taxi fares to work or a support worker if you cannot use public transport
- A support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace
- Disability awareness training for your colleagues
- The cost of moving your equipment if you change location or job
(Above information is taken directly from Government of the United Kingdom 2020)
Anyone with a disability (including mental health) can check if they are eligible on the governments’ website and also apply for the grant with a quick online application. The whole process for me only took a few months from the initial application to the specialist equipment arriving at my practice.
For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work
Deaf Awareness and why it is important
Deaf Awareness is extremely important, especially when working in veterinary practice, as one in six people are deaf or suffer from hearing loss in the United Kingdom (Action On Hearing Loss 2020).
With twelve million people currently living in the United Kingdom with hearing loss (source: Action On Hearing Loss 2020). The chances of crossing paths in veterinary practice are very high, therefore, being more deaf aware will have a big impact on your co-workers and clients.
There are several tips that can be helpful when communicating with someone who is deaf that will make the conversation much easier for both of you. Below are some of the top do’s and don’ts:
- Action On Hearing Loss. (2020). Are you deaf aware? . Available: https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/how-we-help/information-and-resources/deaf-awareness/. Last accessed 28th April 2020.
- Action On Hearing Loss. (2020). Tips for communicating clearly. Available: https://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/how-we-help/information-and-resources/deaf-awareness/tips-for-hearing-people/. Last accessed 28th April 2020.
- Government of the United Kingdom. (2020). Get support in work if you have a disability or health condition (Access to Work). Available: https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/what-youll-get. Last accessed 28th April 2020.
- O’Neill, C. (2003). d or D? Who’s deaf and who’s Deaf?. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/opinion/d_or_d_whos_deaf_and_whos_deaf.shtml. Last accessed 28th April 2020.
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