What stage of your optometry career are you currently at?
I have been a newly-qualified optometrist for almost a year. I am currently working at Pabari Opticians in Moseley, Birmingham. It is a busy, family-owned independent practice that has been established for over 30 years.
When did you first become aware of the profession?
From a very young age I was engaged with the profession due to family members being optometrists. I have always found it interesting.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?
I did a lot of work experience before applying for university and researched different healthcare career options. I was fascinated by the dynamism of optometry as a career. It is continually progressing and there are so many opportunities post qualifying.
Who influenced or inspired your decision to go into optometry?
I have been brought up in a house where my father is an optometrist. He has been pivotal in getting insight into life as an optometrist. However, my decision was cemented when I experienced the work in Pabari Opticians, as well as during my ophthalmology work placement at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“Not only am I looking to grow as an optometrist, but also develop the practice and grow as an entrepreneur”
What are your career goals?
My primary goal is to increase and expand my knowledge within the field of optometry as much as possible. I am currently undertaking the medical retina course at City, University of London and the post graduate diploma in glaucoma. Not only am I looking to grow as an optometrist, but also develop the practice and grow as an entrepreneur. I am excited to embrace new changes in technology and equipment to improve the care that I deliver to my patients. I hope to continually provide high standards in professional eye care, as well as a bespoke service for every patient.
What were the main challenges of your university course?
The most challenging aspect for me was the number of ongoing exams at university. During my second year, I was tested as I tried to balance the delivery of providing high quality service to my patients in practice with revising for my numerous exams. This became especially challenging at first when I was trying to maintain a healthy work and life balance.
What placements did you carry out, and what have you learned from them?
Throughout the second and third year of university, I carried out several work experience placements within both independent opticians and on the High Street. I worked at a High Street practice every weekend throughout my final two years of university. It built up my confidence in a working environment, giving me insight to how a practice operates, hence making the transition from university to pre-reg a lot smoother.
“I would advise not comparing yourself to anyone else in the same process”
What were your expectations of the pre-reg year and how did you prepare?
I was advised very early on that the pre-reg year is the time to create a strong foundation and baseline for the life long career in optometry ahead. I made sure to prepare for pre-reg by knowing the structure and layout of the assessments and visits to come.
What reflections can you make of your pre-reg year, and what advice would you offer to other students?
The initial transition was overwhelming as I ended up having a long commute to work. This meant I had to find a way to balance my time between work, a long commute, revision and also a social life. My advice would be to stay prepared and organised for every visit ahead. This means not leaving revision and records till last minute and keeping in mind the competencies needed for the upcoming visits.
I would also advise believing in yourself and actually enjoying the year. Although intense, it’s the year where you incorporate the clinical side with the theory learnt at university. You’ll be surprised by how much you actually do know. Finally, I would advise not comparing yourself to anyone else in the same process. Everyone completes the visits at a different pace, so it makes no difference if it takes slightly longer compared to friends or other colleagues. The main priority is to make yourself the best optometrist possible and to be competent and safe.
What were the main challenges of the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE)?
Generally, I found revising for the OSCEs easier than Stage 2. It is mainly communication based so I would highly recommend going on courses to prepare. One in particular that I would recommend is an Out of the Box Optics course. This gave me strong insight on what to expect from the OSCEs and how to prepare and revise for the upcoming exam.
“I moved to a different practice so not only was I thinking about the decisions I was making, but also adapting to a new system”
Now that you are newly-qualified, how does working in practice live up to your expectations?
The initial transition from pre-reg to being newly qualified was quite a change. I moved to a different practice so not only was I thinking about the decisions I was making, but also adapting to a new system. The most important thing I have learnt, is to have confidence in myself and the decisions I make, as long as I am putting patient care first.
What observations can you make about switching from working in a multiple to an independent practice?
After working in an independent practice for almost a year, I feel like I have had a positive experience in both environments. Moving to an independent practice was a big step at first. I feel I am now able to know the patients on a more personal level and I am able to follow the patient journeys and build relationships with them. Working in a multiple seemed a lot more fast-paced and very much sales orientated, therefore I did not feel I established as much as a rapport as I would have liked with my patients. However, I gained an invaluable experience by working in a multiple during my pre-reg as it gave me the opportunity to see a wide range of patients.
What’s next for you?
I am looking forward to completing the post graduate courses in medical retina and glaucoma, which I am currently undertaking. I am also hoping to gain more experience in the next few months with specialised contact lens fitting in practice. In addition to this, I am working with Out of the Box Optics as a media tutor, posting clinical scenarios and information every week on its Instagram page.