Your Story (March 2014)

Peer-to-peer exchanges provide exceptional opportunities for knowledge transfer but more importantly for the discovery or rediscovery of camaraderie and common purpose within our profession. For this reason, ADA facilitates the sharing of member experiences through “Your Story.” This month we feature Dr. Sandra Miller and Dr. Meghanne Wetta.

AP: Please describe your practice (how long have you been in business and how many locations).

MW: In September 2011 we purchased an existing, 15 year old practice, called Associated Hearing Health Care. It was a hearing aid clinic owned by three Ear, Nose & Throats (ENT) physicians under the name of Associated Ear Nose & Throat Physicians. We were both employed by these physicians for a number of years. In 2010 they decided to sell their ENT practice to a hospital affiliate. We were given the option to stay and purchase the hearing aid side of the practice. On September 1, 2011 we opened our doors as Complete Hearing Solutions, PC. Thankfully, the transition for our patients was seamless; we simply changed our name and continued business as usual.

Our Lincoln (Nebraska) office is our only location. We do, however, have one satellite clinic. For 14-years Dr. Miller has traveled bi-monthly to York, Nebraska to provide services at the York Specialty Clinic. This is great opportunity to work along side other physicians and contract for services with the ENT’s from Central and Western Nebraska.

Being employed in the ENT practice allowed us to provide comprehensive audiologic testing and rehabilitation for hearing loss and dizziness. As Complete Hearing Solutions, we have chosen to narrow our focus to the prevention, identification and treatment of hearing loss. We are open to see patients Monday - Thursday from 9 -5 and on Fridays from 8:30 - 12:30. We both see patients full time along with another part-time Audiologist. In addition, we have two full-time Patient Care Coordinators, one office manager and we currently have an Audiology Student helping with ‘everything else’! We see patients of all ages ranging from newborn to 100+. We are fortunate to have the University of Nebraska here in Lincoln who offers the Au.D. and Ph.D. programs. This allows us to have students come for their off-site placement each semester. We love working with these students as they learn from us and we also learn from them.

AP: What does the term “best practices” mean to you?

MW: We believe that “best practices” are the ones that lead to the best patient care. We establish our procedures ensuring we are ethical, compassionate, and have a vision to deliver what is best for our patient’s individual needs. Understanding how the entire organ system can be related to potential hearing loss is something we take seriously. Being an audiologist is more than simply improving an audiometric result. We are improving our patient’s quality of life by giving them the ability to communicate with others, thus warding off potential withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and memory loss. By utilizing all our options from FM systems, wireless technology and hearing devices, we give our patients the greatest chance to succeed with better hearing.

AP: What makes your practice unique compared to others in your area?

  1. Doctors of Audiology
  2. Walk-In Hours
  3. Front-Door Parking
  4. Out-of-Office Demos
  5. Personalization & Optimization of Hearing Aids Through Real Ear Measures
  6. Same Day Appointments
  7. Lyric Extended Wear Hearing Aids
  8. Batteries for Life
Educate potential patients on what makes you different – it is the best way to market your practice.

AP: What has been your greatest lesson learned from your experiences as a business owner?

SM: There is a lot to know – and the learning curve has been steep. I have learned two lessons: (1) Do what you do best and hire the rest. As a business owner if you try to control everything, you will be a very ineffective leader, your patient care will suffer, and ultimately you will burn out. (2) Read (the E-Myth for sure) and surround yourself with business owners and leaders who have gotten it right. Don’t try to re-create the wheel – a smart business person out there has written a great book to guide you along the way.

MW: Owning a business is a dynamic process not a stagnate one! The one thing I thought previously was “Well, once we have a protocol for that, then it will run more smoothly… forever.” Now this is true until regulations, laws, computers systems or even staff changes and you realize that protocol or intake paperwork put in place four months ago already needs updating! I always knew I wanted to own my own practice & I always said I wanted to do that with someone else…now I know I could never do this alone!

AP: If you could advics a new graduate deciding on a professional setting, what advice would you give them?

MW: We are fortunate to be in this situation as new students join us each semester. We highly recommend they experience all types of settings during their education to ensure they find the right match for what drives them personally and professionally. We strongly believe that an externship in Audiology should be a paid position. We encourage our students to find a position that interests them, but also stretches them in areas where they may need growth.

AP: What do you like best about being an audiologist?

MW: We genuinely love providing better hearing to change people’s lives in a positive way. It is one of the most rewarding jobs you could ask for. As described above, we truly believe in what we do and how it affects not only the patient, but those they interact with as well.

AP: I know you have many, but could you tell us about one of your memorable patients?

MW: One of our most memorable patients happened a few years ago when our patient purchased a wireless streamer to supplement his ability to utilize the telephone. He had a severe to profound hearing loss and had not talked on the phone for a number of years. His only communication with his brother and nephew was through his wife.

He and his wife went home that day and hooked up the phone adapter for his streamer. They returned to our office a few weeks later for a follow-up visit and had tears in their eyes explaining that this was the first time in many, many years that he had spoken with his brother & nephew! When we relate his story or read his testimonial, it solidifies why we do what we do!

AP: Tell us about the 1-2 people in your life that were influential in your career path?

SM: My undergraduate professor, Kevin Fire, Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota was my academic influence in pursuing audiology. He fueled a true intrigue for the diagnostic side of figuring out the cause, as well as the relational side of providing a rehabilitative option that would benefit the patient. I also would credit my husband for encouraging me along the way. He would help me study, tell me how proud he was of me, and continues to tell me daily, “you have a really great job . . . it must be awesome to make a difference in someone’s life everyday.” Indeed, it is awesome!

MW: There is not a single person that was influential in my career choice/path as for me it happened by circumstance. I was a blessed child of recurring ear infections and had visited many Audiologists & ENTs over my lifetime. When I was in college I had decided to become an Optometrist. As life would have it, the plan I had to attend Optometry School was put second to me becoming a wife, mother & moving to Lincoln. Once we were settled here, I realized there was not an Optometry School close enough for me to attend. Thus, I sat down and knowing I wanted further education we discussed my options. I applied to the University of Nebraska’s Audiology Program and was accepted! The rest is history!

AP: Where would you like to see the profession of Audiology in 10 years?

MW: Thankfully, we see the profession of Audiology becoming more and more autonomous. Gradually, we also see the recognition for our scope of practice coming to light and having our services covered as our education dictates, as Doctors of Audiology. When it comes to hearing devices we see more digital incorporation of wireless options and uses with Bluetooth technology and cell phone use. It is exciting to be in an growing profession where new technology means better hearing, improving livelihoods, and our profession being recognized in the realm of like professions who’ve had to pioneer their way to get what we hope to achieve.