Award winning audiologist for National Hearing Care, Fallon Arnold shares her practice and inspires University of Melbourne's next generation of Audiologists through clinical placements.
What drew you to audiology and what do you love about it?
I studied Psychology for 5 years because of my desire to help people, however, I realised that it was not quite the right fit for me. I remember watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel about animals that would go to a Deaf School and spend time with the children, and it was like a spark inside me was ignited as I realised that was what I was meant to do. Audiology is a perfect fit for me because it is a beautiful blend of science with human interaction. I take such joy in knowing that I am making a positive difference in peoples’ lives by helping them with their listening and communication difficulties.
What are some of the highlights of your career so far?
A personal highlight of mine was winning the National Hearing Care 'Distinguished Service Award' which is awarded to one clinician nationwide every year for their outstanding contribution to client care. I was extremely humbled to receive this award and have my work recognised by management and the company as a whole. Another significant highlight was spending two weeks in 2015 volunteering at 'All Ears Cambodia' in Phnom Penh. Prior to leaving, I collected over 1,000 hearing aids to be fitted on underprivileged adults and children who have limited access to hearing health care in Cambodia. Volunteering is one of the most selfless acts you can undertake, and I was so fortunate to be able to share my skills abroad where they were very much needed and appreciated. I hope to be able to embark on more volunteering in the not too distant future.
What does a normal day at work look like for you?
A normal day for me begins at 8.30am and ends at 5.00pm. My diary generally has a combination of assessments, hearing aid fittings, check-ups and annual reviews. Often clients are not physically able to attend appointments so, in this instance, I travel to their homes, retirement villages or nursing homes to provide them with the same services offered at the clinic. National Hearing Care sees adult government, private and Work Cover clients, so there is lots of variety in each and every day.
What led you to study at the University of Melbourne?
For me, studying at the University of Melbourne made complete sense - I am born and bred in Melbourne but also so many of the advancements in Audiology have transpired here and are affiliated with the University such as the development of the Cochlear Implant by Graeme Clark. The University of Melbourne Clinical Audiology Masters course provides students with both theoretical and practical components, and the teaching staff bring a wealth of knowledge which enhances the overall learning experience. This is the reason why Audiology graduates from the University of Melbourne are highly sought after once they have completed their studies.
What are your strongest memories of your time at the University of Melbourne?
My strongest memories are mainly of the friends that I made during my time studying the Masters course, many who are still in my life. Some of them became work colleagues at National Hearing Care while others work in various other fields of Audiology. Studying the course was an intense experience with its fair share of highs and lows, so having a close-knit group of friends who were going through the exact same experience was very comforting.
I also remember that we were the first year of students to study at the School of Audiology on Swanston Street - we had our own special building! Everything was shiny and new so my class was very fortunate to have learnt and studied in such state of the art facilities.
What/who motivated you at University and what motivates you now?
I work for National Hearing Care at one of their smaller regional clinics and because I do not work alongside other audiologists a lot of my motivation is self-driven. I commute a substantial distance every day to a clinic that I love which I couldn't do without the underlying passion I have for my job. I look forward to coming to work because I know what a positive difference I am making to my clients.
When I was studying, I was motivated to succeed by the supportive staff who wanted each and every student to flourish. I try to bring that same level of support and encouragement to students when they have a placement with me.
Having students from the University of Melbourne come to the clinic for placements is a huge motivator as well. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I graduated myself and I remember all too well what it is like to be a student and what it felt like to walk into a clinic for the first time. Keeping strong ties to the University of Melbourne is very important to me because I want every future audiologist who does a placement with me to walk away having felt like they learnt a lot from the experience, and to talk about that positive experience with their fellow students. I owe so much to the University of Melbourne and I will always endeavour to maintain a strong relationship with it.
As a clinical educator, what advice do you have for current students?
There is no denying the fact that the Masters course is extremely challenging and a step up from any University undergraduate degree. However, if you are passionate about Audiology and are willing to commit yourself to your studies 110%, then in two short years, you will be an audiologist yourself. Keep that goal in mind - that you are working towards a career that you will love. Don't be afraid to ask questions, be as hands on as you can in your clinical placements. You won't learn much sitting in the corner watching your supervisor do their job! Get involved, speak to the clients, help with the appointments, push and challenge yourself. Don't be afraid to make mistakes as this is how we all learn and improve. As a clinical educator, it is my role to ensure that you have a placement where you feel involved - learning aspects of the job so you get more of an insight into what it is like to work as an audiologist as this is the ultimate outcome once your studies are completed.