What stage of your career are you currently at?I’m a newly-qualified optometrist working at Specsavers’ Armada Way practice in Plymouth. I passed the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) in July this year.
When did you first become aware of the profession?I was interested in eye care from an early age. I did my first work experience placement at a Specsavers store in Bristol. That’s when I first started thinking about optometry as a career.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?I’ve always been attracted to the profession as it’s both stimulating and challenging. It enables me to contribute to society by improving people’s vision on a daily basis. As the field of optometry is constantly expanding, I like the idea that I’ll have the opportunity to specialise in the future.
Who influenced or inspired your decision to go into optometry?My dad, who’s an ophthalmic nurse. He’s worked in both Mauritius and the UK in many eye hospitals, including Moorfields Eye Hospital and Bristol Eye Hospital.
I’d like to gain more experience as a community optometrist as well as experience in domiciliary and hospital settings. I’d also like to undertake further qualifications. I have an ambition to attain an optometry doctorate and contribute what I’ve learned to the next generation of optometrists.
What are your career goals?
What were the main challenges of your university course?Balancing coursework, meeting deadlines, revising and trying to achieve good grades, while living in a new city and maintaining a social and family life.
“As the field of optometry is constantly expanding, I like the idea that I’ll have the opportunity to specialise in the future”
During the second year of my optometry degree at the University of Plymouth, I did a summer placement at Specsavers in Plymouth. Working alongside and spending time with optometrists, dispensing opticians, optical assistants and lab technicians helped me decide to join the store for my pre-reg placement. My day-to-day duties involved conducting eye examinations, contact lens assessments and dispensing spectacles under supervision. As part of my pre-reg programme, I attended several residential courses on ocular pathologies, contact lenses, binocular vision and the OCSEs.
What placements did you do and what did you learn from them?
What were your expectations of the pre-reg year and how did you prepare?I expected it to be challenging and it was, but I was looking forward to putting everything I’d learned during my degree into practice. My degree really focused on enhancing clinical decision-making and clinical skills, especially in the third year, when I worked in eye clinics most days. That definitely helped in my pre-reg year.
Working in a large practice enabled me to meet a large variety of patients with various eye conditions. I was also able to discuss interesting and complex clinical cases with my colleagues and supervisors on a day-to-day basis. I had very supportive primary and secondary supervisors, which made the placement even more enjoyable.
What reflections can you take from your pre-reg year, and what advice would you offer to other students?
The advice I’d offer to other students is to undergo their work placements in the setting where they intend to do their pre-reg placement. It’s also important for them to be proactive.
“One of the challenges is the transition from being a pre-reg to a qualified optometrist, which essentially happens overnight”
What were the main challenges of the OSCEs?Looking back now, I found the OSCEs easier than Stage 2. The OCSEs are mainly focused on communications skills and what we do in everyday practice. However, not knowing what to expect was daunting. I attended a two-day OSCE preparation course with Specsavers. It included practical scenarios and a mock OSCE, which I found very useful.
Now that you are newly-qualified, how does working in practice live up to your expectations?I really enjoy working in the store. I get to meet and build professional rapport with patients from all walks of life.
One of the challenges is the transition from being a pre-reg to a qualified optometrist, which essentially happens overnight. It felt a bit daunting at first. Attending Specsavers’ Excel event for newly-qualified optometrists, where I took part in a day of interactive CET based on patient-centred clinical case management, really helped me gain confidence. However, when in doubt, I always get a second opinion from more experienced colleagues.
As well as working full-time for Specsavers, I also work half a day a week as a clinical demonstrator at the University of Plymouth, which I thoroughly enjoy.