University has finally come to an end. I have been in higher education for the past six years, having completed a degree in biomedical science and then headed straight into optometry.
Therefore, the prospect of not having to sit in a lecture theatre under the guidance of the professors seems a bit alien to me.
I am now about to embark on the next chapter of my career within the optometric profession – pre-registration.
I was lucky enough to be offered a placement at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, which seemed a perfect choice for me due to my keen interest in pathology and research that stems from my biomedical background.
Hospital optometry is for me
A hospital placement was something that really stood out for me because I knew that it would provide me with the opportunity to see a vast range of patients with varying clinical presentations of pathology or ocular abnormalities.
I was also interested in improving my understanding of eye disease, its investigation and management and therefore thought that a hospital placement would provide me with the opportunity to find out what actually happens to the patients once they have been referred.
In this form of clinical setting, I expect that there will be a greater number of ‘trickier’ patients to see with more complicated refractive errors, as well as much rarer conditions than you would typically see in High Street practice.
Even though I know it will be a challenge, having just stepped out of university, I believe that a hospital environment will push me to become more proficient in certain techniques, such as retinoscopy and indirect ophthalmoscopy.
Having worked as an optical assistant in High Street practice, I understand how important the business aspect of this setting is, which is something that is not relied on as much in a hospital environment. Therefore, there is a lack of commercial exposure within the hospital setting, as well as less dispensing. It is also known that there are not as many routine eye examinations because each patient presents with specific ocular difficulties and the appointment is tailored to each individual patient.
While I am aware of these potential drawbacks, there are many positives that come with being in a hospital setting. This includes the opportunity to gain experience across a range of specialist areas, such as cornea, glaucoma, medical retina, medical diabetes, paediatrics and eye casualty – I could go on. This really appealed to me because, being right in the centre of a multidisciplinary environment, I know I will receive support from different specialists.
"I secured work experience and it certainly solidified my desire to work in a hospital setting – in just one day I had seen patients with myasthenia gravis, forth nerve palsy, diabetic retinopathy and also Graves disease"
The application process for a hospital placement occurs much later than that for High Street. You tend to apply for the majority of hospitals towards the end of the second academic year, with interviews occurring within the summer holidays, after university exams. This is quite handy as all your theoretical optical knowledge is still at the forefront of your mind. I found this extremely useful because hospital interviews tested my theory to see if I was able to apply it into realistic case scenarios.
If you are thinking about hospital optometry, I would highly recommend getting in contact with your local optometry department and asking if you can shadow an optometrist or do any form of work experience in the department because it will give you a better understanding and grounding about what the role entails.
I secured work experience and it certainly solidified my desire to work in a hospital setting – in just one day I had seen patients with myasthenia gravis, fourth nerve palsy, diabetic retinopathy and also Graves disease.
Some hospitals also host open days whereby you can take a tour of the department and they will provide insight into what the pre-reg period would be like if you were to work there. This is also a good time to establish whether or not you can see yourself working in that environment.
I currently have a few days to recuperate and prepare myself for the start of my pre-reg placement, which I am extremely excited about, but also a little nervous too.
I will be letting you know how I get on throughout my pre-reg year as I share my experiences in OT. In the meantime, good luck to all of the current pre-reg students preparing to sit their objective structured clinical examinations. And to those going for pre-reg interviews, the best of luck.
Olympia Haralambous will be sharing her pre-reg experiences with readers through OT’s monthly pre-reg focus feature from October.