Where are you currently at in your optometry career?
I am currently in my third year as an undergraduate at the University of Hertfordshire. I’m the first in my family to go to university. In January, I’ll be starting my pre-registration placement at a Specsavers in Kent.
When did you first become aware of the profession?
I was initially looking at medicine, but after doing the work experience and research I thought, ‘I don’t think this is for me.’ Then I started thinking about what else I could go into. I spoke to my doctor and my family who advised me to look into optometry.
Looking into it, I found an optometry conference for students at the university of Bradford, which is where I’m from. I spoke to professors, used optical equipment and had the opportunity to do physical examinations. The conference, along with my work experiences in various healthcare related fields made me value the crucial role optometrists play in the community in providing ocular care. This role, as well as the constant technological advances in the profession made me realise that this is the profession for me.
What influenced your decision to go into optometry?
I wanted a profession where I could be of benefit to the community and optometry allowed me to do just that. Sight being the sense that people fear to lose the most, it’s a very rewarding career with great prospects. It’s also a very flexible career which would allow me to balance work and family; both very important parts of my life. The technology that’s going into optometry at the moment also had an impact on my decision. Being an ever-changing profession, there’s always something new to learn and do.
What technology innovations are you excited about at the moment?
Currently, I think OCT will be a very important piece of kit for optometrists on the High Street. It will allow us to make accurate diagnoses, referrals, and ultimately, provide the best care for our patients. There is also a lot of tech going into auto-refracting at the moment and evidently there is concern about automation. However, I think it may push optometrists to be more clinical and essentially become the ’GP of the eyes’.
“I wanted a profession where I could be of benefit to the community and optometry allowed me to do just that”
What are your career goals?
When I started my course, I was thinking about becoming a practice owner. I hope in the near future to be able to offer ocular care to those in remote areas who may find it difficult to access.
Independent prescribing and becoming MECS accredited is also something I think is worthwhile. We have an ageing population so it’s ideal if optometrists are able to prescribe drugs and treat common eye conditions like red eye, dry eyes and sudden vision loss. It will be more convenient and beneficial for our patients but also reduce the strain on the NHS.
What are the main challenges of the university course?
I think most, if not all students would agree that optics is one of the most challenging parts of the course. Admittedly, maths really wasn’t one of my strong points at school, so it was hard trying to get around it.
In the second and third years, the main challenges have been trying to combine my theory with the practical skills learnt in labs. I’ve seen approximately 40 patients at university and treating them has been a great experience. With each clinic I’ve learnt new ways to put theory into practice. I’ve also come to realise each patient has their own distinct personality so it’s important to get to know them, making the sight tests more relaxed and catered to each individual.
What are your expectations of the pre-reg year?
It’s going to be a challenging year but I’m looking forward to it. Students from the year above have told us it’s important to be organised, manage your time effectively and ask for help when you need it. I understand that it is a learning process and mistakes will be made, but our supervisors are there to help us, so working collaboratively with them and other colleagues will get us through the year.