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From A to Optometry

Cementing the decision to study optometry

Newly-qualified optometrist and AOP Councillor, Josie Evans, discusses the realities of everyday practice and her future goals

07 Nov 2019 by Andrew McClean

What stage of your career are you currently at?

I have been newly-qualified for one year.

When did you first become aware of the profession?

I first became aware of the profession as a child because I had relatives in the field. However, my understanding of the role of an optometrist developed as my brother’s myopia progressed at the age of eight and we had frequent visits to our local practice.

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

I always wished to pursue a career in healthcare because I was driven by the idea that I may improve people’s quality of life through my work. After exploring many different avenues I was drawn to optometry because of the scope of our work, I liked the environment and clinical settings we practise in, and at the time it seemed to be a medical career path with the least risk of being exposed to bodily fluids. A patient recently sneezed while on the slip lamp; this has made me rethink the last point.

Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?

During work experience at Barnard Levit Optometrists, Dr Alex Levit controlled a patient’s double vision with prisms in a trial frame. The patient then looked out from the consulting room window with clear, single vision for the first time in years and his reaction was one of absolute delight and gratitude. This moment cemented my decision to study optometry.

“I always wished to pursue a career in healthcare because I was driven by the idea that I may improve people’s quality of life through my work”


What are your career goals?

I would love to gain further qualifications and continue learning. I have started the Professional Certificate in Glaucoma and in the future I hope to achieve the independent prescribing qualification.

What were the main challenges of the university course?

Implementing theory into practice and connecting all the pockets of information you learn. Also, trying to do a safety spectacle dispense.

What placements did you carry out and what did you learn?

During my pre-reg I spent one day a week observing at Moorfields Eye Hospital. It was an incredibly valuable experience and it illustrated the huge range of skills and special interests an optometrist may hold. It also aided my communication in practice, being able to offer patients a further insight into their management following a referral to the hospital.

What were your expectations of the pre-reg year and how did you prepare?

I expected the pre-reg year to be tough, with long working hours and trying to study in-between. It was exactly this, but you do feel a huge sense of achievement as you progress through the Scheme for Registration and are able to better help your patients. In Stage 1, I created notes on each competency, researching broadly around the indicators to ensure all possible lines of questioning were covered. These were extremely useful to refer back to for Stage 2, the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) and still to this day.

“I expected pre-reg to be tough, with long working hours and trying to study in-between”


What reflections can you make of your pre-reg year, and what advice would you offer to other students?

In hindsight, I miss the exponential learning curve of the pre-reg year and how exciting and interesting it was to see new conditions for the first time. I’d recommend always checking with your supervisor or colleague if you are uncertain about anything. It’s in the best interests of your patients and it’s not pleasant to leave work worrying if your management was correct or if that retinal lesion was benign. Additionally, view your assessor as a secondary supervisor, they are there to guide and help you along your journey to qualification.


What were the main challenges of the OSCEs?

The OSCEs were fast paced and if one station did not quite go to plan, you had to clear your thoughts completely to begin the next station, which was a challenge. Additionally, the environment is quite artificial and it can be difficult to get into a patient-practitioner mind-set. Completing OSCE courses beforehand is the best way to overcome this.

“The environment is quite artificial and it can be difficult to get into a patient-practitioner mind-set”


Now that you are newly-qualified, how does working in practice live up to your expectations?

It is nice to offer a smoother experience for patients with regards to the flow of the eye examination, communication and management. I also enjoy being able to contribute more to the practice team as I start to offer second opinions to colleagues. One of the challenges is overcoming the repetitive nature of daily clinics; my patients on annual recalls now know my limited repertoire of jokes off by heart. Fortunately, the clinical cases are diverse and a day in our practice involves a mix of eye exams, contact lens patients, children undergoing myopia control and patients attending the practice as part of the Minor Eye Condition Services, which brings a varied presentation.

What does your role on the AOP Council entail?

An AOP Councillor represents the interests of their region or membership group at meetings and in email correspondence. It involves keeping up to date with any optometry-related news articles, reading information on changes affecting the profession and sharing opinions on this with other councillors and the AOP team. It’s been a fantastic opportunity and truly eye-opening to witness the vast amount of work that occurs behind the scenes.

What is next for you?

I hope to volunteer on a Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) assignment in the next couple of years. VAO supports four countries across Africa, ensuring everyone has access to affordable eye care services and glasses regardless of their economic status. On an assignment, volunteers may be involved in training eye care workers or conducting eye examinations in community outreach or in a vision centre. The work they do is incredible and I am keen to get involved.

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