International Women’s Day 2018 – Karen Shepherd

We’re marking International Women’s Day 2018 by putting BSHAA members in the spotlight. You can see all 11 member profiles on the main page HERE

KAREN SHEPHERD

What’s your current role in audiology?

I look after the professional practice and clinical standards of Boots’ hearingcare services, the customer care team and the learning and development team. I also chair our recently formed Audiologist Partnership Panel.

As Vice President for the British Academy of Audiology (BAA) I am a member of the exec committee that looks at strategy and ensures that BAA deliver on planned initiatives. I support other Board Directors with membership, CPD, regional groups and our student membership. I was part of the organising committee for the recent collaborative event between the three professional bodies.

When did you first know you wanted to be an audiologist?

I fell into audiology by accident – I always had a leaning for sciences and spent some time working in labs and veterinary investigation centres during my college days. During a careers appointment they asked if I was interested in audiology as a new hospital was opening in the county and they were looking for two students to fully fund and train – and give a job to once the hospital had opened. You can guess what I said: “What is audiology?”. Sadly, this is a question that is still being asked some 30 years on, so clearly more to work to do in promoting audiology as a career choice.

I spent some time in the local eye, ear and throat hospital to learn what the job involved and thought, “Wow, I love it”. It was a blend of science and working with people who can speak back and you get to play with toys in the paediatric clinics – so I made the decision that it was too good an opportunity to miss and I can honestly say I’ve not looked back since.

What’s the best thing about being an audiologist?

This is difficult because there is so much, I love the variety. One day I’m in one location at a meeting about service development, another day with suppliers understanding some new technology or service innovation, another day listening to customer/patient stories and another day contributing to strategy, be it for Boots Hearingcare, BAA or other collaborative initiatives. Overall, however, I love that the job we do is about relationships and all about restoring or maintaining confidence for people so they can enjoy being part of life.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

Wow, I have been lucky enough to enjoy many milestones – Oticon Student of the Year; gaining my role in Asia Pacific; my history with Boots Hearingcare, formerly David Ormerod Hearing centres; being appointed Vice President of BAA. But I’m most proud, I think, of the day I spent in Mumbai with a team of ENT and audiologists from the hospital testing and fitting hearing aids to a queue of children and adults which stretched – and this is no exaggeration –  a good two miles. Seeing so many happy and grateful faces for the gift of hearing was so worth it!

Any advice for other women who want to become an audiologist?

Go for it – I can honestly say I’ve never had day where I have ever thought I’m not enjoying this – it is so rewarding and offers so many choices. It’s a role with so many employment options which you can juggle around your life. I got to 40 having enjoyed a marvellous career to that point and thought I would like a family, tried successfully and easily for a geriatric! Being a working mum has its challenges but in this career it is perfectly possible to find opportunities that suit you and your employer – or you could work for yourself. This career offers options no matter where you are in your personal journey.

Seize every opportunity, work in different environments, different sectors, different countries, work with adults, children, diagnostic, rehabilitation, technology, training , supervising, management, sales, governance  – the choice is there. While many start off not knowing what audiology is – not many leave once they have found it.