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Giving back

Stepping outside of practice and using your skills in different surroundings can have many satisfaction-boosting benefits

26 Apr 2017 by Emily McCormick

Something I often hear from experienced practitioners and optoms in-training alike is that they want more from their career than sitting in a darkened room 9–5.

Now don’t get me wrong, the people that I hear this from are happy with the career choice they made, but at times they want a little more variety. Luckily for them, once you scratch the surface, optometry is a profession with many options. From practising in a multiple, hospital or independent setting, locuming, owning your own business or being a franchisee; and from teaching the next generation of optometrists by stepping into academia, to volunteering both at home and abroad to help people who otherwise would not have access to eye care. 

Charities offering practitioners this type of opportunity locally and further afield include Vision Care for Homeless People and Vision Aid Overseas. There are also many smaller charities that offer similar opportunities, such as Eyes4Everest and Orbis, which OT has covered in the past.

However, what these organisations share is the satisfaction they provide the volunteer, at all stages in their career. Optometrist Rajula Karania was at a point in her career when she was wondering ‘What now?’ when she signed up to help train ophthalmic professionals in Bihar, India as part of a programme by Second Sight. Afterwards she said she would never forget the extremely satisfying and rewarding experience, which gave her the opportunity to step out of her comfort zone and give something back. As a British-born Iraqi-Kurd, newly-qualified optometrist Alan Hawrami travelled to a refugee camp in Kurdistan to offer eye care to people who had left their spectacles behind while fleeing their homes and now had no access to eye care. Reflecting on his experiences, he shared: “This was our first visit to a refugee camp, and hopefully it will not be the last…it really put things into perspective and made us appreciate our own way of living.” 

Proving that it’s never too early to start taking part in these types of projects, I learned this week about a group of Cardiff University optometry undergraduates who are preparing to travel to Malawi for a month this summer to offer vision screening and spectacles to local communities. 

As OT looks ahead to its December career satisfaction themed edition, I would love to hear your stories about what keeps you happy and satisfied in your career. Email me at emilymccormick@optometry.co.uk

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