Optometry past, present and yet-to-come

A new year approaches, giving us cause to consider the triumphs and hurdles of the past 12 months

Blog wk 51

To misquote Charles Dickens, many of us were cautiously optimistic for the festive season: “to begin with.”

However, rising cases of Omicron and the murmurings of potential restrictions have meant that many are toning down or cancelling Christmas bookings. Conversations with family are filled with snippets from the latest news updates, and plans seem to have a ‘just in case’ clause built-in. Anything beyond December 25 itself seems to be one big question mark.

The uncertainty, and perhaps sizeable sense of deja vu, is tiring, and in what is an ever-evolving situation following another tough year, it is important to keep the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us at the front of our minds. These tips from Mind give helpful reminders of some ways to navigate the challenges.

I have been heartened, however, by the stories we have heard from practice teams in our recent coverage, which have given us an insight on optometry past, present, and yet-to-come.

In our 21 insights from 2021 article, OT heard from professionals across optometry about the challenges this year has posed, and how they have navigated the hurdles.

AOP Councillor, Tushar Majithia, optometrist and director of Lunettes Opticians, highlighted some of the ways that responding to the pandemic has impacted practices – from isolation requirements, to changing appointment schedules and the increased demand for community optometry services.

But he also noted that change is afoot in communities, sharing: “There appears to be an evolution on our High Streets, where many independent and niche businesses have been able to thrive in the challenging environment,” something observed by analysts in commerce, who have identified a shift in consumer behaviour towards supporting local businesses.

And there are plenty of opportunities for practices looking forward. Majithia observed patients placing “greater value” on health, stating: “I think that this will lead to a greater uptake of advanced eye examinations using technology such as optical coherence tomography, wide field imaging and dry eye management tools.”

Features from OT’s December/January edition, which focuses on triage, have delved into the picture of optometry in the present, with our lead feature The art of triage drilling down into the importance of seeing patients “in the right place at the right time,” and how optometrists have been honing the skill and supporting local hospital eye services.

Reflecting on the use of triage in practice, optometrist and AOP chair, Dr Julie-Anne Little, shared: “I think the profession has a long-standing history of really standing up and serving its communities very well,” adding that COVID-19 has only helped to illustrate this.

As the end of 2021 drew us to reflect on lessons from the past year and consider what 2022 could bring, a roundtable discussion hosted by OT in partnership with five Hakim Group practice owners sought to explore what the landscape of optometry could look like, as far ahead as 2030.

The panellists discussed the world of advancing technology, updates in education, the increasing links with secondary care, and the changes on the High Street, to consider how these factors might shape the profession over the next decade.

I have particularly enjoyed hearing from optometrists as they shared their achievements and learnings from 2021: from taking on new career challenges, to changing practice models, consolidating skills, and even ‘twinning’ in eyewear style with patients.

Week 51 Twins
For the 21 insights in 2021 article, Anthony Josephson told OT about one patient that made him smile this year, an 81-year-old lady who loved his bright orange frames so much she brought herself a pair, calling them “twins”

Speaking to OT, Holly Geraghty, doctoral student and former Sheffield Teaching Hospital optometrist, shared the lesson she will be taking from 2021 into the new year: “Being flexible in your approach and saying ‘yes’ to opportunities that come your way will only serve you well in the long-run, no matter how scary they feel at the time.” A great note to consider as we begin to pen those resolutions for 2022.

In the final days of the year, don’t forget that OT has a suite of 25 CET exams available online for any practitioners yet to meet the GOC’s current CET requirements. These exams close on 28 December so be sure to take a look, and do not forget to accept any CET points in good time.

Finally, to end the year with a sparkle, OT is hosting a festive competition over on Instagram. Entries close today (23 December) so be sure to get involved!

All that remains is to say, if you are celebrating, I hope you have a safe and Merry Christmas – and I for one am crossing my fingers for a smoother New Year – but whatever comes our way, the OT team will be here to share your experiences.