Mandy Cooper: Access to Care Among Patients with Hearing Loss

Hi everyone! First of all, I cannot wait to get to know my fellow scholars during this summer and am so excited to learn about everyone’s research/career interests! My name is Mandy Cooper, and I am a rising junior in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Nursing. In addition to my nursing degree, I am also pursuing the Certificate in Global Health. Something that is unique about me is that I am deaf in my left ear and wear a hearing aid. I have had this hearing loss for roughly ten years and have been treated for the last five years. This part of my life, along with my passion for nursing, sparked my interest in research about treatment for hearing loss.

My current project for the Brackenridge Fellowship focuses on access to care for patients under the age of 26 with hearing loss. While conducting some preliminary research, I found a major research gap in the existing literature for young patients with hearing loss. This young population is particularly at a disadvantage for receiving effective treatment because having severe hearing loss at a young age can put this population at a detriment in academics as well as in their social development. I believe it is vital that we address the lack of attention surrounding this population and highlight the need for effective treatment of hearing loss. Through interviewing patients and their families, I hope to discover if patients are satisfied with the care they receive and if they are included in the decision-making process; these steps will assess patient preferences for treatment. Additionally, through Optum claims data, I will analyze existing geographic and socioeconomic barriers to care among this population and identify trends. My research mentor for this project is Dr. Hayley Germack, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing’s Department of Acute and Tertiary Care; we have worked together on various projects for the past two years, and I am so lucky to have her as my guide through my first real, independent research project.

My future aspirations for my nursing career are all over the place right now! I imagine myself traveling abroad to provide care across borders to those in need; I imagine myself continuing with research surrounding hearing loss treatment to improve patient satisfaction; and I imagine myself being a nurse in the NICU caring for babies and their parents during such trying times. Hopefully, I can find a way to tie all of these routes together! No matter what field of nursing I end up pursuing, I will fight for the best possible patient outcomes with everything in my power.

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