From refraction to refractive
AOP Councillor, Bhavik Parmar, on his experiences working as a specialist refractive optometrist
My first experience of optometry was when I secured work experience at a local practice at the age of 16. The work experience was a compulsory part of my secondary school education and provided me with the opportunity to explore my interest in healthcare. During my time in practice I was both surprised and fascinated by how much improvement, in terms of quality of life, an optometrist could make to a patient's life. Ultimately, it is what led me to develop a career in optometry.
From a young age, I knew that I wanted to work in healthcare. As well as exploring optometry, I looked into medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. However, my second passion was business and as I learned more about optometry, I realised that it was a profession where I could also utilise my business acumen. Having the potential to both run a business and help people in terms of healthcare meant that optometry offered me the best of both worlds.
I completed my pre-reg period with a large multiple, the same practice where I had completed work experience as a teenager and had shortly after begun working as an optical assistant with. I remained with the multiple after qualification and became their resident optometrist.
Wanting to develop in my career and experience different businesses, I later moved to another multiple to be a lead resident optometrist. I progressed to be a regional optical lead, where I was responsible for the training, developing and mentoring of my fellow optometrists within the region.
"The role is very different to that of a 'normal' optometrist in many ways. In particular, the rapport that I build with my patients is very different"
In 2017, I became a specialist refractive optometrist. The role is very different to that of a ‘normal’ optometrist in many ways. In particular, the rapport that I build with my patients is very different – I see them through from the beginning to the end of the surgery, from the initial consultation, the procedure and for post-op check-ups for a year. Therefore, I get to know my patients really well.
I also get to work particularly closely with surgeons. There is a really strong communication between the surgeon and the optometrist because while they perform the surgery, you are responsible for the aftercare of the patient and managing any complications that may arise. I get to learn so much from the surgeons that I work with; particularly with respect to the anterior eye, utilising topography and treating with various drugs to manage patients effectively. Therefore, this role is particularly suited to practitioners with their independent prescribing qualification.
Being a specialist refractive optometrist offers me a lot of variety as a clinician. It means that my days are no longer filled with just sight tests and contact lens appointments. And while I still do the odd one of those, my days are now comprised of consultations, 24-hour check-ups, aftercare appointments and much more.
Clinically, the role has really allowed me to grow because it is not routine.
I have enjoyed many career highlights to date. I have certainly gained enjoyment in securing each and every one of my optometry roles to date, which have each helped me grow as an optometrist. Outside of practice, a highlight was also most definitely being elected as an AOP Councillor.
In terms of setbacks so far in my career, there hasn’t been anything too major. However, what I do find particularly difficult is time management as I strive to juggle work, study, being an AOP Councillor, and much more.
For me, the next step in my career is taking on the role of head of professional services at an established optical group. It's a very challenging but rewarding role, and something that I have particularly been working towards as it allows me to utilise both my management and clinical expertise. It’s something that I’m very much looking forward to embarking on in the New Year.
If I wasn’t an optometrist, I would have been an astronaut (I even got a place to study this at university).