People of KHSC: Teresa Beckwith

News / General
By John Pereira

People of KHSC celebrates individuals across KHSC who capture the spirit of caring deeply for patients, families and each other

If you’ve ever grabbed a bite to eat at KHSC’s Kingston General Hospital site, there’s a chance you’ve met Teresa Beckwith. In fact, if you’ve even just come through the hospital’s main Kidd-Davies entrance, you probably have heard her distinctive laugh.

“I get compliments on my laugh, which probably sounds like a hyena,” says Beckwith, who is the Assistant Supervisor at the Auxiliary Café. “I'm known to be very loud, I've been told you can hear me laughing as soon as you walk in the front door. I think being deaf you tend to speak over noise because we think people can't hear us.”

Although the pandemic has come with challenges for everyone, it has presented particularly difficult obstacles for those with hearing impairments, like Beckwith, that rely on lip-reading to help in conversations.

“The whole mask thing was so nerve-wracking at the beginning and I was so frustrated because it was something my brain had to get used to. However, I found the more I ‘practiced’ taking orders without seeing the customer's face, the better I got.”

Beckwith, who has worked in the Café in a number of different roles for 26 years, is completely deaf, but she received a cochlear implant 15 years ago which restored a portion of her hearing.

“It’s an amazing technology, I don’t know what I’d do without it,” she says. “I don't see it as a disability though, just a small setback. The doctors, nurses and all the staff that we get to feed every day are pretty awesome, I look forward to the ones I joke around with and hearing them laugh. The regulars have been amazing with me.”

Beckwith immigrated to Canada from England with her mom and sister when she was just 10 years old and started working in the Café when she was 19. In her mid-20’s she took a few years to go back to school, where she studied business, and start her family.

“When our daughter was a year old, I wasn’t working and was bored. I started looking for part-time work, and lo-and-behold the Cafe was hiring again. 21 years later and I'm still here.”

“I’ve done a number of different positions in the Café, from preparing the food to working the cash register. I used to love doing cash and interacting with the customers, listening to their day, who they were visiting, telling me their life stories, and so many people were patient and understanding if I didn't hear them. But, I am the Assistant Supervisor now and am so grateful for my new position and the extra duties. My favourite part of my job now is coming in early (between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m.) and baking to start the day.”

The camaraderie and team atmosphere in the Café is another main reason she’s so enthusiastic and passionate about her job, as it helps her get through the more stressful moments. 

“Not every day is easy, the odd time I do get a customer that gets kind of snippy with me when I have them repeat their order (because I didn't hear it), but I try to let it not get to me. The girls up front (that I work with) are amazing. If they know I'm struggling with a customer, they tell me they've got the order. I thank my co-workers every-day for being my "ears" in tight situations. We have some amazing girls at the Cafe, many long-timers, and we laugh and joke so much, but our work is always done at the end of the day.”

Reflecting back on her career, she’s seen a lot of change in her 26 years not only in the Café, but across the entire organization.

“Over the last 10 years we’ve made a lot of changes to the menu, adding new popular items. But I've seen a lot of changes in the building too. I’ve seen them put four new floors on the Kidd-Davies wing and rebuild the whole front entrance. I'm pretty excited to see the new renovations with a new Emergency Department take place in the future too. But mostly I look forward to serving all of my customers each day.”