Q: When did you know you wanted to be an audiologist?
Jess: I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to work at Children's Hospital as a clinic assistant. It lent itself for me to have this opportunity to understand what an audiologist really does. I worked with the cochlear implant team and I helped with activation so I got to see patients receiving an implant for the first time. That was sort of the moment of ‘that's what I want to do, this is where I belong.’
Q: What do you do at work day-to-day?
Jess: I always feel like I work with families and patients first and audiology—like testing hearing and diagnosing hearing loss and rehabilitating hearing loss—is second. For a lot of the families that I meet, it's maybe their first time really working with a specialist or having to be at the hospital so they often seem shell-shocked or not sure what questions to ask or what to expect.
I take on the role as a tour guide through this journey and I want to make sure I build that rapport with them and make them feel comfortable so they have someone to call or email when they have a question. Whether it's ‘oh, we're about to pick a preschool, what should we be asking, what should we be thinking,’ or ‘my child wants to go to gymnastics is that okay even though they have hearing loss?’ Just helping them through all these little things that come up as a child develops ... that's what I think I do mostly on a day-to-day basis.
I do my best to help them but I don't always have the answer. Then I reach out to my colleagues here at the hospital who are in other professions and ask them what to do. I like that part of my job the most though. I think that's very interesting, it's different for every family.
“I love my families, and my little patients, and my big patients. I see kids from birth all the way to 21.”
Q: What sort of wider impact do you hope that your work has?
Jess: My personal goal as a pediatric audiologist for everybody that I work with is that I want to make sure they get to meet whatever goals they have for themselves or for their child. It’s thinking through any challenges they have whether it's educational or it's extracurricular or it's struggling to meet friends and make friends, you know. My goal is just that they get to live their lives and meet their fullest potential regardless of their hearing loss, and if there's ever a way that I can help them get there then we brainstorm and we work on that together.
Q: How did your time in the Pitt Audiology program influence the work that you're doing now?
Jess: I sometimes joke when I am talking to other people that I feel like I was raised here. I came from WVU, but then I got this position here at Children's where I could be the assistant while I was taking some time off deciding what I wanted to do. Then I went to graduate school at Pitt and I spent my last year at Children's Hospital and then I stayed. So, I feel like I've just been raised here and I do think that resonates in the work that I do. I think that we are taught at Pitt to always be looking to better ourselves and looking at the research and finding what has the best efficacy, what has the best outcomes, and always trying to stay ahead and trying to do the best job that we can possibly do.
Q: Were there any unique opportunities that you experienced as a Pitt Audiology student?
Jess: I was a LEND fellow for two out of my four years at Pitt and I definitely think that helped shape the person or the clinician that I am, kind of looking at the family and looking at the patient and looking beyond your appointment goals for that day. But kind of trying to put yourself in those shoes and have some compassion for what may or may not be going on in their life. And trying to work within that construct to help them meet their end goal.
Q: Are there any professors that you think particularly helped you during your time in the program and throughout your career?
Jess: I think they all do. It was a small group—there were nine or ten of us in my graduating class so you get a lot of one-on-one attention when you need it. Dr. Catherine Palmer has been a huge support and someone to really look up to. I think Dr. Barb Vento was always great to me when I was in school. She was always approachable and I think that she really cares about students on a personal level.
Q: Would you recommend students to consider audiology as a career?
Jess: If anyone is interested in audiology or looking at Pitt for audiology, I think it's a really great time to be an audiologist. It's interesting, it's actually changing right now, and I think being at Pitt gives you an opportunity to be at the forefront of those changes. I encourage anyone considering audiology to go into the pediatric side of audiology. It's fun if you're an outside-of-the-box thinker and you like to work with all kinds of different individuals.
Q: How do you spend your time outside of work?
Jess: I like to be outside—my husband and I are always outside. We're hiking with our dog, or we're just doing different things outside as long as we can—before the weather gets really bad and then we're stuck inside.
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