In this blog, Macauly Gatenby RVN, member of the DIWP (Diversity, Inclusion and Widening Participation working group) and current student council member of the BVNA explains how being hard of hearing or deaf should not be a barrier to achieving your qualification and working as an RVN.

Those that are deaf or hard of hearing have recently had a surge of empowerment. The media has highlighted just how amazing we can be, for example, through Love Islands’ Tasha Ghouri or Strictly Come Dancing’s Rose Ayling-Ellis. But it really has taken these people being on the forefront of reality television to demonstrate to those that are not deaf or hard of hearing that we really can do it all. Working in the veterinary industry and being part of this community is no exception.

As someone who has congenital conductive hearing loss, uses a bone-anchored hearing aid and lipreads, I think that sadly, many people still have misconceptions of a deaf, or hard of hearing person’s ability to carry out their role as a veterinary nurse competently. I once saw someone say to another person it was “amazing” that I was able to be in my current role as a veterinary nurse. It was if I wasn’t there, and for a split second I felt like I shouldn’t be doing what I was doing. But that couldn’t be more wrong. I have the tools that help aid my disability as the knowledge and resources. It is also important to remember what works for me may not necessarily work for someone else who is hard of hearing or deaf. So, it is important that both sides are open and honest. Ideally, the individual should state what their access needs are and then others can ask what access needs are required and how things in the practice can be changed to better support that individual – communication is key.

Understanding where and who to go to for support can be overwhelming and can sometimes prevent people from applying for a job or pursuing further education, As stated by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), it is important to remember that approximately 12 million people in the UK are affected by hearing loss or are deaf. The RNID has compiled a comprehensive website to support those affected by hearing loss and for those that want to support.

In England, Scotland, and Wales under the Equality Act 2010 and in Northern Ireland under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 employers have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments”. The reasonable adjustment could be from providing communication support, for example, installing equipment such as amplified telephones. Under the government’s Access to Work scheme you may be supported through a grant to pay for practical support or the specialist equipment. This is provided when an individual’s support goes beyond the reasonable adjustment that an employer is legally obliged to provide under the Equality Act.

There are many areas of my job that I can do without any changes or support, however one hurdle that I didn’t think I would ever be able to overcome was the ability to use a stethoscope. This statement is true when it comes to using the conventional stethoscope many use daily, however, I have been fortunate enough to be able to have access to a ThinkLabs One Digital Stethoscope. This stethoscope, which can amplify sound over 100 times through using audio headphones, has provided me with the opportunity to feel confident in my role and to care for my patients to the same ability as my peers. However, this isn’t the only one on available to support those that are unable to use the conventional stethoscope. Another option is the Littman CORE Digital Stethoscope. Unlike the other stethoscope, this one has the appearance of a standard stethoscope, allowing for amplification and for Bluetooth technology to attach to the hearing aid. It also has other gadgets, such as an app to visualize and share heart sound waveforms. Hopefully this hasn’t sounded like a marketing ploy, but an example of knowing any role you want to have is achievable and that support is only one click away.

So, whether or not you have a degree of hearing loss or are deaf we should all strive to achieve an equitable playing field through the empowerment of one another, regardless of how we achieve that equity.