A journey worth travelling
Pre-reg optometrist, Brooke Hutchins (pictured), discusses her expectations of the pre-reg year, her career goals and what she has learned from being on placement
What stage of your career are you currently at?
I have recently graduated from City, University of London and have just begun my pre-reg placement.
When did you first become aware of the profession?
I have always been aware of the profession. However, I did not know that it was what I wanted to pursue myself until during my A-Levels.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?
I used to work in a customer service and administration role within a different area of healthcare. The aspect of this field that I enjoyed the most was the interaction with patients and helping to make a difference. I wanted to take this further, so it was during this period that I took the time to research different healthcare-based career options.
Optometry was the career that interested me the most and stood out from the rest. As a career it also offers many opportunities for progression and the options post-qualification are extremely varied. This gives me the freedom to take my career down a variety of different paths in the future.
Working with people is also something I enjoy and I knew that I wanted a career that gave me this opportunity. I have found optometry to be incredibly rewarding. Ocular health is so important to everyone’s lives and in so many ways. Optometrists really are at the forefront of primary eye care in terms of examining and managing patients within the community.
Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?
I will always be thankful for the many people who encouraged my decision to apply to university and supported me along the journey. However, the decision to go into optometry was really my own.
Optometry was the career that interested me the most and stood out from the rest
What are your career goals?
My primary goal is to gain a vast amount of experience during my pre-reg year and become a fully qualified optometrist. In the future, my ultimate goal is to become a practice owner or director. Before that, I would like to gain additional qualifications to enhance my knowledge and level of patient care. I would also like get involved in hospital optometry at some point in my career as I would love to gain more experience in areas such as low vision.
Aside from these, it would also be great to return to my university as a clinical supervisor to support students within the university’s sight clinic. Research is another key area where I would like to spend more time. I undertook the STEP Educational Project, supported by Johnson and Johnson Vision, during my second and third year at university. This has provided a useful insight into conducting research within optometry. Having the opportunity to complete a PhD would be a fantastic complement to my career.
What were the main challenges of the university course?
In every year of my degree we had numerous exams to take, including practical assessments and Objective Structured Clinical Examinations. I have always found these both to be particularly challenging as they require thinking and making decisions on the spot with accuracy.
The third and final year of the course was the most challenging for me as we began to carry out eye examinations and contact lens assessments on real patients. This was nerve racking to begin with, however these moments proved to be invaluable experiences in preparing for the pre-reg period.
Optometry is a challenging degree and requires a lot of hard work to get the most from the course while also creating a good foundation for the beginning of the pre-reg period. Overall, it has been a tough journey but all worth it in the end.
Optometry is a challenging degree and requires a lot of hard work to get the most from the course
What placements have you carried out so far, and what have you learned?
Throughout first and second year, I carried out several work experience placements within both independent opticians and those on the High Street. These provided me with insight into how different types of practices run, different procedures that should be followed, and it all helped to build up my exposure to working in practice.
Until my pre-reg I had also been a regular volunteer at Moorfields Eye Hospital where I assisted, guided, and sometimes chaperoned patients with their appointments. During my time there, I managed to gain a valuable appreciation of the ophthalmological side of eye care, and the many reasons why patients attend secondary care.
What are your expectations of the pre-reg year and how did you prepare?
I expect the pre-reg year to be an incredibly tough, but beneficial experience where I will put all my knowledge to the test. I will be able to use the skills I learned at university in real-life and apply them to a vast range of patient cases. I was not exactly sure how I should prepare for my pre-reg. However, soon after I started I realised what I needed to revise in terms of conducting routine eye examinations and contact lens assessments and improving my knowledge on contact lens types and brands, and spectacle lenses. I expect pre-reg to be challenging and that I will not always know how to deal with certain clinical situations, but with the support that comes with being a trainee I will learn from these experiences and constantly improve and develop.