Regitze Willemöes owner of Høreklinikken St. Kongensgade

Staying person-centered in a world of COVID-19

By Helle Gjønnes Møller

In late April, the controlled reopening of Denmark (phase 1) enabled liberal professions, including audiology clinics, to resume their business. We spoke with clinical audiologist Regitze Willemöes about her experiences during the crisis and her thoughts about the “new normal” in audiology.

Regitze Willemöes is a clinical audiologist, tinnitus expert and owner of Høreklinikken St. Kongensgade in Copenhagen, Denmark. On April 23rd, Regitze reopened her clinic, following a set of very detailed guidelines from the Danish Health Authority. After months of lockdown, Regitze was unsure what to expect from those first appointments, but she anticipated a certain level of anxiety among her clients. So far, however, the relief and excitement for being able to return to some sort of normality has been the most common reaction.  

Staying person-centered in a sterile environment

“I think I was the one with the biggest concerns really,” says Regitze. “I instinctively started thinking about my clinic as an operating room where everything constantly needed to be sterilized. I almost felt like I had to demonstrate to my clients that I was complying with all the guidelines – and at first, that was extremely disruptive to my usual way of practicing. Under normal circumstances, I would offer my clients a cup of coffee or tea to make them feel at home. I would take the needed time to create an atmosphere of intimacy and confidentiality. But with this sterile set-up, and me behind my face mask and gloves, I almost felt like the person-centered care I would normally provide was dissolved by sanitizer.”

After processing these initial experiences, Regitze made a conscious choice not to let the increased focus on hygiene affect her way of practicing. “I decided that this is not how I want to work. Gradually, I am getting used to these new conditions and learning to relax – still taking the needed hygienic precautions obviously, but in a less fanatical manner. I realized that exaggerated fussiness is not at all what my clients are looking for.” 

Comfort and consolation in hard times

During the lockdown, Regitze managed to stay in touch with her clients through regular newsletters. “There seemed to be such an overwhelming feeling of isolation and loneliness out there, so this was my attempt to reach out and provide some comfort. And the feedback I received was just amazing; people sharing their personal stories and experiences – I felt like we genuinely provided each other with mutual consolation in these difficult times.

“For me, as an audiologist, these past months have also been extremely lonely. Every event – from local workshops and conferences to AAA – was canceled, so as a professional, I have felt isolated and under-stimulated. What kept me sane, in addition to my correspondence with clients, was my local network of independent audiologists. We leaned on each other for motivation and discussion, which has been immensely valuable.”  

Remote client support 

During the lockdown, Regitze was also able to support her clients through remote care, enabling her to do hearing aid adjustments in real time. “During the crisis, online communication with clients has been extremely helpful. But I do not think I would ever consider remote care as an alternative to actual, physical encounters. Only as a supplement. In my opinion, it simply does not offer that same feeling of intimacy – that magic that happens in the moment – when people connect in the real world. To me, that real-life contact will always be crucial to person-centered care.”

Longtime Ida enthusiast

As a former member of the Ida Institute team, Regitze is a dedicated practitioner of person-centered care with extensive experience using Ida’s toolbox. “Ida’s tools and methods have become an inherent part of how I work. Today, I use the tools almost intuitively to frame the dialogue with a client, as sort of a guideline to sense where the client is on their individual journey. Ensuring a unique experience for each client is my passion, and that is not going to change, even in this new environment.”

Learn how you can extend your hearing care beyond the appointment through online support with Ida Telecare.