This is the fifth of a series of spotlight articles that will be posted on the blog every month until the conference in June. This spotlight series will highlight a deaf or hard of hearing healthcare professional and AMPHL member who has found success in their field and continues to break down barriers.
Amber Kimball Hsu, BSN, RN
Tell us about your aspirations and field of study. What are you doing now?
I am a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholar and am currently enrolled in the PhD program in Nursing Science at UNC- Chapel Hill. My dissertation focus is healthcare experiences and outcomes in older adults with hearing loss with an additional focus in inpatient settings. My defense date will be at the end of this month! Post-graduation I am excited to join the Disability Policy Fellowship at the Center for Education in Health Sciences, Institute for Public Health and Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University! I am looking forward to learning from disability research and policy experts as well as developing additional skills that will help me in future policy work.
What kind of hearing loss do you have and what is your preferred and primary communication method (e.g., signed communication, voiced/lip-reading)?
I was diagnosed with 20% hearing loss at birth which gradually worsened until I obtained hearing aids at 18 months old. At age 3 I was diagnosed bilaterally and symmetrically profoundly deaf. I primarily communicate orally, however, I grew up using (and still sometimes use) Cued Speech as a supplement. I am learning how to sign and I love practicing my signs at AMPHL conferences to anyone who allows me (which is always everyone)!
In your application for graduate school, did you reveal your hearing loss?
I made a point to talk about my hearing loss often in my statement of purpose as I felt that my hearing loss was an asset to my research interests.
What resources and accommodations did you use while receiving your training?
In the PhD program I have used CART services for my proposal defense and will use it again for my upcoming dissertation defense. For classes I did not use accommodations as often times the class sizes were very small, and my professors and fellow PhD students were very accommodating. They would often let me choose where it would be most optimal for me to sit first and ensured the classroom environment was quiet and well lit.
Do you have any advice regarding resources and accommodations used during your training?
I always recommend when starting a program or job that new students/employees bring either their accommodations or information about the accommodations they need to succeed to interviews or first meetings. Not everyone may agree with this, but I feel that it helps put the accommodations that are needed into perspective for management and allows them the opportunity to assimilate more quickly and easily. Before starting my ADN program and in my panel interview for a med surg residency position I made a point to bring my amplified stethoscope to the directors and spoke about the various accommodations I may need to succeed as well as the assets I would bring to the nursing profession. I also spoke about how hearing nurses on the unit could use my stethoscope if they were unable to hear through the standard stethoscopes. Both times, the directors all listened to heart and lung sounds using my stethoscope and they really enjoyed it!
Did you set up your office/clinic/practice with any particular accommodations?
No, I only used amplified stethoscopes and occasionally CART in graduate school.
Any funny or inspirational stories?
There are so many! There are two that I can think of at the moment! One is when I received the acceptance letter from UNC Chapel Hill’s PhD program on National Cochlear Implant day. I received my Cochlear Implant from UNC over 20 years ago and was flabbergasted at the coincidence! It must have been meant to be!
The second story is probably one of my coolest experiences to date! In 2016 I presented about my experiences as a deaf nurse and nursing student at a local deaf camp for children. I brought my amplified stethoscope and amplified headphones for every child to try and most were able to hear how their hearts and lungs sound! Oftentimes the stethoscope is seen as a barrier to many deaf and hard of hearing individuals. So the look on their faces when they realized that the stethoscope is no longer a barrier and that they too could pursue a career in healthcare if they wanted to was priceless! I always try to encourage people to try to provide children with disabilities these types of experiences as often and as soon as possible.
Any last words of wisdom or advice?
Following the nursing 5 P's - I created my own 5 P's that I try to follow for success. Be; Persistent, Proactive, Perceptive, Patient and Positive.