In late 2022, the first student-led conference on person-centred care (PCC) in audiology gathered hundreds of students from various universities around the world — giving them an opportunity to connect, learn, and engage. The virtual conference ignited courage in the students to raise the standard of care for all patients and bring about meaningful change in hospitals, clinics, and communities.
As an MSc Audiology student at the University of Cape Town (UCT), I was invited to present on the topic “Overcoming cultural barriers with PCC”, alongside Bontle Mathabi, a fellow UCT student.
Diversities and similarities
In preparing for the conference, I had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with and learn from other audiology students from different parts of the world. Each student came with a zest for audiology and PCC, reminding me of the ancient African word ‘ubuntu’, which represents humanity to others and directly translates: ‘I am what and who I am, because of who we all are.’ Throughout the conference, I witnessed the spirit of ubuntu. This was a beautiful display of what can be achieved when we work together and when everyone is viewed as an equal partner.
Despite the cultural diversity of the student co-hosts, there were many similarities in the challenges we faced. These challenges were thoroughly covered in the presentations which explored themes such as: the obstacles students face when transitioning from university to placement, the benefits of working with simulated patients online, barriers to PCC access, the do’s and don’ts to be aware of when engaging with patients, and cultural humility in clinical practice. The proposed solutions from across the panel reiterated that one should never suffer in silence and that there is a great variety of tools and methods available to empower current and future hearing care professionals in their interaction with patients.
Beyond the textbook
Leading up to the conference, I was concerned I may not have much value to add to the conversations. I suppose what I experienced was a case of the so-called ‘imposter syndrome’. However, in our first preparation meeting, I learned the importance of students leading the conference and having a seat at the table. Many other students experience this imposter syndrome and may not be aware that it could in fact be a steppingstone in their journey to becoming audiologists who put each patient first. To address such insecurities, to create self-knowledge and confidence, students need sufficient opportunities to grow beyond the textbook. And what better way than a safe space where they can be guided and supported by other students to bring about a culture of brilliance in healthcare?
To acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to practise person-centred care consistently and confidently with patients, one needs to be adequately exposed to the approach. So, it’s only natural that students should be involved in spear-heading conversations around PCC.
A bright future for audiology
With this conference, we — the students — became catalysts of change instead of mere supporting characters. I learned that the future of audiology is bright; it is filled with empathy, active listening, inclusion, and respect. I hope this baton will be passed on in the years to come, so we can all continue to advance the mission of person-centred care for all.
A huge thank you to the Ida team, my supervisor Dr Christine Rogers, and all the extraordinary students and lecturers involved. I am grateful that our paths have crossed, and I am proud of what we were able to establish together.
Watch the student presentations here.