From the NHS to Specsavers for Audiologist Sonam Sehemby

After working as an Audiologist in the NHS, Sonam Sehemby made the move to Specsavers. She’s the Professional Development Manager in our Audiology Professional Advancement Team, working to drive audiology clinical standards forward. Sonam shares her thoughts on what it’s like moving from the NHS to the private sector, and why NHS Audiologists have so many misconceptions about it.

Hi Sonam. How long were you working in the NHS?

NHS Specsavers Audiologist

I was in the NHS for five years and worked for two different NHS departments, in Nottingham and Birmingham. I did the four-year BSc degree in Audiology, which was heavily NHS focused because it was funded by the NHS. That’s why I went straight to work in the NHS instead of exploring other options that were open to me back then.

How is being an Audiologist in the public and private sector different?

The biggest difference for an Audiologist coming from the NHS to the private sector is that there’s a sale associated with hearing aids, whereas in the NHS everything is free for the patient.

Many NHS Audiologists are nervous about working in a retail environment. However, Specsavers are committed to supporting and training all clinicians to ensure the transition is a smooth one. But there’s no difference whatsoever in the job role of being an Audiologist for Specsavers. The end goal for Specsavers Audiologists is not sales or commission, it’s all about giving the best care possible to patients. It’s about clinical skills, professional development and delivering high-quality hearing care for your community.

One of the things I love about working for Specsavers is that we offer both private and NHS services for our patients. Many of our Specsavers stores offer NHS services, which means that patients who don’t particularly want to buy hearing aids can still access NHS audiology services – just on the high street instead. As an Audiologist, I’m a huge fan of this setup – it means more patients can access an essential service to help improve their quality of life.

How does your job role at Specsavers differ from the NHS?

It’s all about driving clinical standards forward, making sure your patient is getting the best from what you’re offering them. In the NHS, most departments have somebody in charge of making sure that development is being undertaken, but I don’t think you’d have somebody in the same role as mine (at Specsavers) in the NHS, as I am solely dedicated to Audiology.

So, why did you want to work for Specsavers?

I was at the point where I was ready for a more of a challenge. I went into Audiology because I wanted to help people and I was wholeheartedly loving that part of my job in the NHS, but I was ready to change things up. I wanted to see if I could have a wider impact. I’d never considered joining the private sector because I didn’t want to sell hearing aids, but all the misconceptions I had were basically just myths.

Although my role now is less patient facing, I’m still able to help people by supporting the clinicians, who then in turn help the patients.

Why are there so many misconceptions in the NHS about working in the private sector?

The private sector is very much seen as the dark side by those working in the NHS, mainly because of the cost associated with purchasing hearing aids. There are all these myths: it’s going to be sales-based, it’s going to be commission-based, you’re going to get a really rubbish basic salary. And this is not to discredit anything my peers in the NHS have taught me, but a lot of these things were coming from people who hadn’t experienced the private sector.

The primary role of a Specsavers Audiologist is not to sell hearing aids. That’s not what they do. They want to help patients to be able to hear again, they want to deliver quality hearing care for their communities on the high street. That’s the primary purpose of their role. Once you break it down to the clinical aspect, there’s no difference whatsoever between delivering hearing care in the NHS and delivering hearing care in the private sector.

It’s exactly the same job role.

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