My pre-reg journey has got off a great start, allowing me to comfortably settle into what I am told will be the most challenging year of the road to becoming a qualified optometrist.
So far, the majority of my time has involved getting to grips with the work-revision balance, as well as getting to know the different roles in community practice. Currently I’m dispensing and testing fellow colleagues, though I’ve also started examining and managing patients of my own, something that I didn’t think I’d start doing until a month or two into my training.
The journey so far
For many pre-reg peers and I, August has marked the start of our journey to becoming optometrists. In community practices, such as Specsavers, you’ll usually spend the first month or two on the shop floor, getting used to the different roles in an optometric practice (as this is a Visit 1 competency) and acquiring the 250 dispenses that are required to pass Stage 1. In the meantime, you’ll also start testing staff members under supervision to build confidence before seeing real patients. However, this can vary from store to store.
During my first week, I was thrown in at the deep end when I was given a six-year-old to examine and manage who was experiencing sore eyes and headaches towards the end of the day. This immediately got me thinking on my feet, ensuring I covered every aspect of the eye test in as much detail as I could while prioritising the more important tests before the patient lost interest.
“During my first week, I was thrown in at the deep end when I was given a six-year-old to examine and manage who was experiencing sore eyes and headaches towards the end of the day”
I am very interested in paediatrics and therefore having a six-year-old as my first patient was a great experience. I decided to use cyclopentolate as, although my retinoscopy was stable, the visual acuity for one eye was unexplained and thus I wanted to rule out latent hyperopia or amblyopia. The child ended up being +2.00DS with about -1.00D of astigmatism in each eye so I prescribed first time spectacles. They later picked up their new spectacles which granted clear and comfortable vision and it felt great to know I’ve had an impact on that child’s life, not just in terms of their vision but their quality of life.
Preparing for Visit 1
One of the many perks of working in a multiple is the training available to you. Specsavers hosts many courses over the pre-reg journey, one of which is an induction into pre-reg which covers many aspects. These can include breaking bad news to patients, full routine and the significance of different clinical tests, when and when not to prescribe, and many more; all of which provides you with confidence to start testing your own real patients.
The courses are run by facilitators with a wide range of knowledge in different fields, whether that be clinically or as a director. I was fortunate enough to be facilitated by a director who not only specialised in medical retina, glaucoma and therapeutics, but was a College of Optometrists examiner. The knowledge I gained was fantastic and very much made me feel at ease going into Visit 1 as I now understand more about what is expected from each element of competence and what assessors are generally looking for.
“After three weeks in my pre-reg placement, it has been difficult to open my university notes at the end of the day, meaning I am mainly revising on my days off”
Keeping on top of things
So far, keeping on top of things has been quite difficult. However, the new electronic logbook has made things much easier. With the logbook, you can easily input a few details to keep track of dispenses and sight/contact lens tests, while showing you how many more you need to do. You can add additional tabs in order to detail whether a patient is a potential patient record that will help you demonstrate an element of competence, and you can easily look for specific patients who have pathology, such as glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration, when looking for examples of competence.
After three weeks in my pre-reg placement, it has been difficult to open my university notes at the end of the day, meaning I am mainly revising on my days off. However, I’m sure I will get into the swing of working and revising as time goes on.
Next time you hear from me, I will have had my Visit 1 and will share insight into how that went. Until then, enjoy the start of your pre-reg and good luck to anyone with their first visit coming up.