Amy, AOP member
“I am a second-year optometry student currently seeking a pre-reg placement. My preference would strongly be to complete my placement in a hospital setting, but I’m not sure when I should expect to start seeing placements appear and how to best apply. I know there are very few hospital placements available and that it can be quite competitive to secure one. Can you share any advice on making my CV standout out from the crowd and preparing for the interview?”
Holly Higgins, hospital optometrist
Having completed my pre-reg in a hospital setting, I have first-hand experience of the application and interview process, and was successful.
For anyone who wants to complete their pre-reg placement in a hospital setting like yourself, I would firstly strongly encourage them to gain some work experience in a hospital. This doesn’t have to be extensive, it could just be one day in a local optometry department. However, this is important because it will make sure that you know what the job entails before applying.
Completing work experience in a few different hospitals is really beneficial when applying for a pre-reg in this setting because it will allow you to see how each department may differ, while also meeting the teams in advance of potentially applying. I would recommend the same for those applying for community practice.
At this stage, with hospital pre-reg placements highly sought after, you may not have a preference over location, but it is still useful to do your research to find out which hospital departments offer optometrist extended roles clinics. This may not only be of interest to you in the future, but if you are successful in securing an interview, it will provide a talking point with the interview panel.
If you don’t know where to start when it comes to securing work experience, it may be beneficial to ask your lecturers if they have any contacts at hospitals located nearby your university. Alternatively, you could ring up a local ophthalmology department to see if they have an optometry department and ask for the head of optometry’s email address or contact details. It is about being pro-active.
All hospital pre-reg placements are advertised on the NHS Jobs website only. You can sign up and set up an alert on the site for “pre-registration optometrist” or “entry-level optometrist,” and in return you will receive emails as and when jobs are advertised.
Every hospital is different when it comes to advertising a pre-reg placement vacancy. When they may advertise simply depends on when they receive funding. This may mean that you are looking for a placement much later than others. However, you should not panic about this, patience is key and you will no doubt be making applications in other settings also.
The NHS Jobs application process is standardised. Therefore, once you fill in one application, you can reuse and edit it for further applications. However, be sure to tailor each application to the specific job specification and criteria.
“You could ring up a local ophthalmology department to see if they have an optometry department and ask for the head of optometry’s email address or contact details. It is about being pro-active here”
If you get invited for an interview, it is important to be aware that, again, interviews differ between each hospital trust. But, in my experience, every interview will usually have theoretical and practical elements, with dispensing, contact lens or low vision questions possibly included. There will also be more general questions that are designed to help the interviewers get to know you.
Ahead of any interview, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of remembering to consider the answer to the question: why do you want to complete your pre-reg in a hospital? And being ready with an answer – you will get asked it.
It is competitive
Lastly, there are only a handful of hospital pre-reg placements in the UK and therefore not everyone who wants to work in a hospital setting will manage to secure a place. My advice to those who are not successful in their applications is: don’t let it put you off hospital optometry. In the grand scheme of things, your pre-reg placement is just one year of your professional life that you have to pass to qualify. Afterwards, the optometry world is your oyster and there is nothing stopping you from applying for hospital jobs in the future.
Always keep a lookout on NHS Jobs and apply whenever you see a suitable vacancy. You do not need hospital experience for most band six positions in the hospital setting. Hospitals will train you from scratch, so do take the plunge later if that it is something you want to do.
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