BY AMBER KIMBALL, BSN, RN
Prior to AMPHL, I stumbled through nursing school. Between finding stethoscopes, finding audiologists, knowing what accommodations were available and how to obtain them, it felt like a huge undertaking to tackle alone. The challenges didn’t end with the logistics; I also struggled to connect with and relate to my hearing peers in healthcare as our perspectives on our challenges tended to differ. Another challenge was connecting with my deaf/hard-of-hearing peers as they did not understand the responsibilities and stress I faced working in acute care. Often times, I felt I was in limbo or in a long episode of The Twilight Zone. Being a cochlear implant recipient and Cued Speech user, I was accustomed to the limbo feeling as I am not extremely close to the Deaf or hearing communities. However, healthcare can be stressful, even for those who can hear, therefore adopting coping mechanisms and forming meaningful connections is vital for career longevity. At times, I felt alone such as when I needed a shoulder to cry on or needed to vent to someone who truly understood without feeling insecure or ungrateful. AMPHL provided that outlet for me and provided me with so many resources and opportunities for expansion, growth, and reflection with many different professionals.
I was nervous about my first AMPHL conference in 2015, despite the connections I had formed with current members over emails and social media. Talking with current members via email and social media convinced me to check out the conference and gave me hope that I may find people with whom I can connect on a different and more personal level. I was nervous because I worried that my high expectations of AMPHL were unattainable and feared that I would be faced with disappointment in the end. However, my fears were quickly put to rest when I was greeted by a smiling profoundly deaf physician and audiologist sitting at the registration table the first day of the conference. I examined the room as I registered and saw people cueing, signing, speech-reading—discussing stethoscopes, clear masks, and the stressors of their jobs that they experience. It hit me in that moment that I was in my element and among people who were vastly different than anyone else I had encountered. There were so many deaf and hard-of-hearing health care professionals within my reach—it was almost overwhelming to wrap my head around. I had been accustomed to being the only deaf nurse in my hospital (and probably surrounding area) that the thought of this being possible was unfathomable. It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time as I wanted to make a good impression and form genuine connections. This actually turned out to be the easiest and most fun part of the whole conference.
The conference made available a wealth of knowledge, experience, and opportunities for me to take advantage of. Between presentations such as “Disclosure in the Workplace” and “Legal Rights of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing,” as well as workshops such as “Clinical Simulation Lab with Amplified Stethoscopes” and “Teamwork in a Code Blue,” there were many available accommodations, experiences, and solutions. I was blown away by all the presentations and workshops the conference had to offer via three concurrent tracks—I wish I had been able to attend them all. The ability for me to say I had to choose between presentations baffles me as I am still impressed with how many intelligent and hardworking individuals made this organization possible simply by persevering.
The diversity did not end in presentations and workshops—there were also many variations in hearing loss, education, and professions among members. AMPHL provides an environment that promotes instant camaraderie as AMPHL not only accepts diversity, but welcomes it with open arms. Within the prevalence of diversity, one thing everyone shared in common was perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity, specifically in healthcare. The instant camaraderie was formed not only during the daytime conference events, but also during dinners and nights out. Having a night out on the town to relieve stress with individuals that I could relate to on unique levels was something I had not experienced before. I was able to mingle with professionals in divergent specialties and gain uninhibited and valuable perspectives. From physicians to interpreters to lawyers, our different experiences made for an intriguing evening out. Not only was I able to connect and obtain new perspectives, I was able to do so easily in an environment that is notoriously loud. It was easy for me to ask for repetition, as patience was prevalent and explanations were unnecessary among the group.
All in all, AMPHL as an organization and the conference I attended, reminded me much of the quote “it takes a village to raise a child.” It is highly uncommon for one to become successful on their own. It truly takes a village of support, of perseverance, and of hope for one to succeed, especially in the face of adversity in a complex profession such as healthcare. AMPHL represents much of this as there are many professionals in AMPHL that are willing to assist those in need, whether it is networking, advice, referrals, or even legal help. AMPHL and its members are willing and ready to be your backbone and support system when you may need it most. AMPHL is a labyrinth of extensive knowledge, varying experiences and most importantly instant camaraderie. I am grateful that I took a leap of faith and attended my first AMPHL conference in Ann Arbor in 2015. If you’re thinking of attending an AMPHL conference, whether you’re looking for information, connections, or friendship, I highly recommend attending our 2017 conference in Rochester, NY. AMPHL and I would love to welcome you with open arms and call you our friend and colleague!