SPHSC Alumni Stories

Josh Olmstead

Name: Josh Olmstead
Program: Doctor of Audiology
Year graduated: 2013

Josh Olmstead graduated from the UW Doctor of Audiology program in 2013. He now works as a clinical audiologist at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. In this interview, Josh talks about how the experience in the audiology program helped prepare him for his career and led to his current job.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in your job as a clinical audiologist?

I do almost everything that an audiologist can do, with the exception of working with cochlear implants. I see patients of all ages, from 0 to 100-plus. I work with hearing aids and perform comprehensive balance and hearing evaluations – I delve into a little bit of everything.

How did the education and training you received in the UW audiology program help your career?

I received a quality education that really focused on evidence-based practice. Pretty much everything we learned in class was evidence-based practice. We weren't taught to do something just because that's what our professor had done; we really learned why we're doing it and the research behind it.

When I was done with the program, I felt I had a solid foundation because of the classes and good training the program provides.

What was your specialty focus in the program and why did you pursue that path?

My specialty focus was pediatric audiology – hearing testing, managing of hearing loss and hearing aids for children under 18. I have always enjoyed working with children. Then, through the classes and good mentorship, it became clear to me that that’s what I wanted to pursue.

What experience did the program provide in terms of working with children?

I took part in a pediatrics graduate-level training program called UW Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities. It’s not just for audiology but for other practices, too, such as doctors and physical therapists who plan on working with children. I also had specialty placements in pediatrics.

Can you talk a little about your capstone project?

I did my project on hearing screening results from the Special Olympics in Washington state. A group from the University of Washington did a hearing screen for athletes and family members who wanted it.

I looked at the results between the two different groups to see if there was more prevalence of hearing loss in individuals with developmental or intellectual disability versus those without.

What were your biggest learning takeaways from that project?

I think the biggest takeaways were learning how to set up a research project, how to pose the right questions and the statistics involved with that.

Can you share a bit about your fourth-year clinical placement?

My fourth-year placement was actually here at Boys Town National Research Hospital, where I work now. During the placement, they gave us an opportunity to work with all the different things we can do as audiologists. We did testing of infants, and for all ages we did hearing evaluations, management of hearing loss, hearing aids and balance testing. Additionally, we were able to work with individuals of all ages who use cochlear implants.

In the program, were there opportunities to collaborate with your classmates?
There were a lot of team-based projects. That’s nice because when you get out of school, you're often working with others for the same goal. I think learning that way as a student and working that way was pretty important.

Was there anything that stood out for you about the faculty and instructors in the program?
A lot of the faculty members have also worked as clinicians, which I think makes a big difference –someone who has done the research and knows the background behind everything, but also has worked with patients.

Some of our faculty course instructors were also our clinical supervisors. So when you learn from them in class and then also get to work with them with patients, it's nice to see that transition.

What did you enjoy most about your student clinical training?

Learning a lot. Being able to screw up and learn from it, because we do that a lot as students; people are pretty understanding because they know we’re learning.
And then hands-on work. Hands-on is why I think most people get into audiology, to do the testing and work with patients. Learning about it is fun, but actually working with people and making a difference is what it's all about.