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A profession with many options

What path will your career take you down?

26 Jan 2017 by Emily McCormick

One thing that I have learnt through working at OT  over the last few years is that when it comes to the career of an optometrist, opportunities are aplenty.

A career as an optometrist offers a multitude of possible avenues for practitioners to explore once qualified – there is more to the life of an optometrist than being on the High Street.

From hospital and academic settings, to charity and industry, these are just a few options. There are also career routes within professional bodies, as well as Government-related areas, as I learnt talking to the AOP's Geoff Roberson about his career path last week (read more in the March OT).

A perhaps lesser known option is domiciliary optometry, an area that OT covers extensively in its February Patients-themed edition, landing through your letterboxes this weekend.

Speaking to four domiciliary optometrists, with various backgrounds, one thing that is clear is that it can be a very rewarding way to practice.

“Domiciliary patients may not have left the house for weeks, months or even years. When you go in and see someone and have a nice conversation, it can often be the highlight of their day. We can make a real difference,” explained Outside Clinic domiciliary optometrist, Nikesh Lad.

Harjinder Sunda, optometrist and founder of Eye Clinic at Home Ltd, added: “I love domiciliary optometry and find it very rewarding because you are really valued and appreciated by the people that you treat.”

However, domiciliary doesn’t have to be a sole route for optometrists. In fact, the service can bring added value to a practice-portfolio, as Leicestershire-based independent, Edmonds & Slatter, understands.

This week the independent relaunched its domiciliary service to highlight its home sight test service for patients who are unable to attend the practice. While the business has offered this service across its three practices for more than three decades, it feels that now is the right time to actively promote the offering.

In a market where being able to differentiate yourself from your competitors is key, be it through clinical skills or products, it is certainly worth giving this sort of service some thought.  

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    Sadly my personal experiences have not tallied with the sentiments expressed above, and in fact optometry is now something that is having a negative effect upon my well-being and confidence as I cannot escape into something else. I qualified with a 1st class optometry degree, have a previous science degree from a very well respected London university, and over the past 12 years have experience of working as both a hospital optometrist and on the high street, as well as a role in a low vision clinic for a local charity . I'm personable and bright and get on well with people but over this period have realised optometry is not working out for me. However, applications for work outside of the niche role I occupy has met with a wall of rejection, no matter the level for which I apply. From an ECLO post, to a role in the RNIB, CQC inspector, NHS graduate scheme, local council, Diabetes UK and even a private health assessment centre. All have roundly rejected me. If i was a nurse, with an NMC membership there are a hundred and one different opportunities. The same goes for doctors and physiotherapists, perhaps even OT's (although i have not looked into that one). But as an optometrist it seems my value is only recognised when someone walks into a testing room. My responsibilities and communication skills play second fiddle to the now desirable project management skills (and no matter how i've spun it patient management, doesn't appear to be the same!). I find myself advising inquisitive parents to reconsider optometry as an option for their children, and as the years advance, and my ability to cope dwindles, see only stacking shelves or working on a checkout as my ultimate destination. Perhaps if one is keen to dance between different optometric areas optometry offers opportunities, but as a respected career that acts as a stepping stone into other realms i have found it profoundly limiting. (apologies for any errors or poorly conveyed expression...as you can understand this is something that is somewhat difficult for me to properly articulate)

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