Most days start the same, my alarm goes off and my first thought is, “that can’t be right, I just fell asleep and this is a bad dream!”
Things generally improve from that point.
I spend about 20 minutes in the morning, reading articles and forums and clearing emails from my personal inbox.
I try to creep around the house, carefully avoiding waking up my wife or our child (apparently I fail at this regularly). Our two dogs hear me of course, and our boxer’s tails start thumping, even while he sleeps, in anticipation. He knows breakfast is coming. By the time I’m dressed and they can hear my shoes on the floorboards they have arranged themselves by the door, sitting in their best “I’ll be good” pose.
Generally, I have time to feed myself too, otherwise I make some toast for the car ride and away we go. I try to be out the door around 7:00 am. The drive in is either spent on a phone call from a friend, or listening to the radio. I listen to the ABC or try and find an interesting sport or music program.
By 8:00 am most days I’m in the office, glued to my screen or doing a walk around to say hello. Unless I have an early meeting, the first part of the day involves a coffee and emails. Most of my time is spent in the MQ Health Speech and Hearing Clinic, on the ground floor of the Australian Hearing Hub. The clinic employs 7 audiologists, and we have 3 more based at Liverpool hospital, filling about 6 .5 full-time positions. People on campus are sometimes surprised that we have such a large clinic on campus, delivering services to the community.
Apart from meetings, my calendar is not the best predictor of what I will actually be doing, with a lot of my time being taken up by unplanned events in the clinic, either at reception, or in an appointment. One thing I enjoy about the role I’m in is the diversity of people I get to interact with, around campus and external to the University. Apart from MQ staff and students, I meet other health professionals, teachers, suppliers, as well as clients and families from the community.
I like to get through tasks quickly. If I’m not doing two things at once, I feel like something is wrong! Despite this, I can get lost in my work for hours, trying to find a quicker or smarter way to perform a task, or extract some obscure figure from our clinic stats. I find this type of activity bizarrely engaging, and when I get into the zone the movement activated lights in my office switch off, which I sometimes don’t notice until I move and they switch on again. Apart from these sessions I’m on my feet a lot, walking around the clinic, checking equipment, talking to clients, students and staff, and making sure my finger is on the pulse in the clinic.
At some point in the morning I’ll generally have a second coffee. I like to leave the clinic and walk the 5 metres to the café in the Hearing Hub. You never know what will come from a “what if we did this instead” conversation at the Café.
Every now and then I do some clinical work. I don’t miss regular clinical work, but having the opportunity to come into the clinic from time to time and hear people’s stories is one of the most important things I do. I’m in a unique position, with input into our clinic, our Masters program, and some of our research projects. These reminders from patients, about their successes and challenges living with hearing loss, help to keep me focussed on why our work matters.
When I graduated I had an excellent understanding of hearing loss, and how to assess and manage it, but not a deep understanding of how hearing loss affects a real person, who is embedded in work, a family unit, a social network, a community. Recognising this, and working with people to understand these contexts better, is the key role that a good audiologist plays. It really shouldn’t be all about hearing loss tested in a sound-proof booth, hearing aids or the tangled cords and wires that plague our clinic rooms. Being part of an institution that can help instil this in students from day one is intrinsically rewarding to me.
On Thursdays and Fridays I have temporarily relocated to level 1 of the Hearing Hub, where I work with our Audiology academics and our Learning Design Guru, Michael Rampe, on various projects. One example of this is the current transformation of our Masters of Clinical Audiology program from traditional, didactic delivery to an online, multi-modal experience.
These days are a welcome change of pace, giving me time to think about our long term goals, something that isn’t always possible in the clinic where dozens of snap decisions need to be made each day to ensure things run smoothly.
I try to leave at 4, which isn’t always possible. As everyone on campus would know, traffic is a real problem, so the days I leave late have a much longer commute, which is again filled by the radio. Most nights I’ll do a bit of gardening, or go the park with the family. I read a lot, pretty much Fantasy novels and nothing else. My favourite author is Robin Hobb, because she writes about characters that are so real. All the “fantastical” elements of her stories are experienced so fully by those involved that they seem quite reasonable, really!
I’m also a musician, in a couple of bands. We usually play at private functions, but one of the bands has the odd pub gig, which makes me feel terribly old now compared to 10 + years ago when I did that most weekends.
Eventually, when the day’s mix of family, work, music, house work and wasting time on the internet are done, I go to bed (usually too late). Then my alarm goes off…