The Language of Trust
Through all the hard work I have put forth this semester, my rotation site at the VA Hospital in central Arkansas has become somewhat of a safe haven for me from the hectic life of an AuD student. I spend two days per week there, ranging from seven to 10 hours per shift, and no shortage of patient contact whatsoever. I have had the privilege of working under the tutelage of very strong audiologists who are equally good people to boot. The work environment is near perfect, with a blend of friendly personalities devoid of ego yet a strict set of expectations for work performance in all aspects. The only downside is the cruel and unusual requirement of getting to work at 7 a.m. each morning.
With my commitment to private practice at the beginning of the year, I often consider how my experiences will translate. Yes, the private sector is a "whole different ballgame," as I've been told by multiple professionals. Some perceive VA-type work to have less pressure, as patients are not required to shell out thousands of dollars for treatment. It's been said that you are "more free to be an audiologist," as there is no sales aspect involved. I can definitely understand the differences in that regard.
A few months ago, I skimmed through The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics by Michael Manslansky. I did not thoroughly immerse myself in his work due to my own academic obligations, but I remain intrigued by one of the broader concepts. That is, we live in the information age where patients become increasingly more aware of services that are offered, as well as alternative (and perhaps cheaper) options for treatment elsewhere. The result is that consumers become more skeptical of anything that could be construed as a "sales pitch." Subsequently, the tactics that are used to encourage a patient to pursue the treatment that you offer should evolve into less of a canned sales approach and more so into a straightforward and informational approach, allowing the professional to establish trust through authenticity.
The concept makes sense to me for multiple reasons. One, presenting all of the information - including the drawbacks and alternative options (even services available outside of your own establishment) earns credibility because the consumer will likely come across the information through his or her own research anyway. Second, it allows the professional to focus on being a hearing care provider while still enjoying the fruits of operating independently. As a student, I can say that it is not uncommon for academia to demonize private practice because of the stigma attached to anything sales-related. Admittedly, the thought of selling anything makes me feel a bit uneasy at times.
To tie in the experiences of my current practicum rotation, I have worked hard to emphasize realistic expectations for amplification and alternative treatments to all patients, despite the lack of monetary investment on their part. I was once told that my strength as a student clinician is the preference to interact with a wide variety of patients on their level - to speak their language. I attribute this to growing up in a small, rural town while uniquely being a child of an age where society is more connected than ever before and a massive wealth of information is available at our disposal. I am not the overwhelmingly extroverted, bubbly personality commonly associated with successful independent practitioners and at first glance probably do not appear to fit the mold. Some are born with the charisma and skills to the point where they could probably sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves. I, on the other hand, once finished dead last in a Boy Scouts competition selling popcorn. But I did build lasting friendships and trust with a few elderly folks whom I can call upon at any time for help if need be.
If the concept of the language of trust rings true over the near future - that earning real trust with our patients wins out over the can't-miss sales pitch and at times superficial persona - perhaps this could be the wave of the future in private practice?
Personally, I will look to achieve success using this model when the time comes to work as a more independent audiologist. Maybe the field as a whole could benefit from an era in which clinical knowledge and authenticity are greater keys to success. Maybe patients trust the knowledge that we worked our tails off to earn - to provide them with the best treatment possible without as much of a sales façade needed. Maybe this allows our approach to be placed more on the needs of our patients and less shaped on our needs to meet our own desired outcome. Perhaps the age of skepticism helps the field return to its roots without compromising earning potential.
I have yet to experience life as an independent hearing care provider, so obviously this is all food for thought. I'd love to hear some opinions from those of you who do have that experience.