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From A to optometry

The opportunities of an optometrist

Second year undergraduate at the University of Plymouth and AOP Awards Student of the Year 2019, Luke McRoy-Jones, on the excitement of improving the quality of life of his patients

06 Mar 2019 by Andrew McClean

What stage of your career are you currently at?

I grew up in the South Wales Valleys and moved to Plymouth in 2017 to pursue my ambition of studying optometry at university. I’m currently enrolled as a second year student at the University of Plymouth and I am thoroughly enjoying the course and being part of the profession.

At university, I have taken on extra responsibility. I act as the president of our optometry society and I also work for the university as a student ambassador, representing the course during open days, for example. Alongside my studies, I also work for Specsavers.

When did you first become aware of the profession?

When I was younger, both my parents worked in the optical industry, in support and management roles. My father still works in the industry as a business development manager for a major lens manufacturer.

I feel I’ve always had exposure to the industry and an understanding of the role. I remember going to work with my dad in my school holidays and being in the store environment surrounded by all the frames and equipment. I also remember going on domiciliary visits with him.

What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?

My upbringing had some influence on my desire to become an optometrist. As I learnt more through education and started doing some work experience, it really stood out as the career path I wanted to embark on.

The prospect of being able to work with patients and improve their quality of life, alongside learning about the science behind the eye and vision, really excited me.

The flexibility and specialism options within optometry, as a career, also really appealed to me, when I researched the profession. I really liked the fact that I could embark on further qualifications to specialise and perhaps go down the business ownership route. 

“The prospect of being able to work with patients and improve their quality of life, alongside learning about the science behind the eye and vision, really excited me”

Who influenced your decision to go into optometry?

My parents definitely put the profession on my radar due to their jobs when I was growing up. As I learnt more through education and work experience, I decided that it was for me. The staff at the practice where I did initial work experience were also massively influential. They provided me with a real insight into the role and opportunities that being an optometrist provides.

What is the next step in your career?

I’m looking forward to finishing my degree and embarking on my pre-reg period with Specsavers in Caerphilly. That’s the main priority right now, but I am very excited about what comes next.

Alongside this, I’ve recently started working with the AOP and the College of Optometrists as a student representative. I hope to be able to continue working with the professional bodies throughout my career, as I hope to contribute to the profession as a whole.

What are your career goals?

After my pre-reg period, I would like to do some of the additional qualifications and work towards independent prescriber status. I’m particularly interested in low vision and I would like to be able to offer the Low Vision Service Wales, as I will be undertaking my initial career stages back in Wales.

Optometry provides opportunities worldwide and this really excites me. Ultimately, I would like to work towards having my own practice, where I can develop my own team to deliver high quality optometric services and as a result, have a greater impact on the community.

“Optometry provides opportunities worldwide and this really excites me”

What are the main challenges of the university course?

I think that different people will encounter different challenges throughout their degree, depending on their personal strengths. Sometimes the volume of content, such as the course material relating to pathology, can appear a little overwhelming at first, but I find it incredibly interesting. As a result, I find myself enjoying the time I dedicate to consolidating my knowledge and reading around the subject.

What placements have you carried out so far, and what have you learned?

Before enrolling at university, I worked at an independent practice in South Wales. This experience was invaluable in that it confirmed optometry as a career choice for me and gave me a foundation of knowledge about the patient journey. I got to interact with patients and also the practice team, giving me a feel for the profession.

Since enrolling at university, I have joined Specsavers and I work between two stores: Plymouth and Caerphilly. Both are great practices, with very knowledgeable teams that are always keen to support me and immerse me in situations where I can develop. Since working for them, I’ve been able to gain experience in dispensing and contact lenses, which will be incredibly helpful for my pre-reg period and beyond. 

I’m looking forward to practising in our third year optometry clinic and my hospital placement from September this year.

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