From work experience to optometry student
Cardiff University student and AOP student representative, Millie Trotter, tells OT how her work experience inspired her to pursue a career in optometry, and how she hopes to promote the profession to others through her blog
Who influenced your decision to go into optometry?It was my aunt who originally organised for me to have a day of work experience at my local Specsavers, as she knew that I was unsure of what to do after sixth form. If she had not helped me organise that work experience then I wouldn’t have been offered a position as an optical assistant (OA) and I probably would have never considered a career in optometry.
Aside from my aunt, the optometrists that I work with back home have been huge influences on my decision to go into optometry. They are really passionate, are more than happy to answer any questions that I have, and are always telling me about interesting cases or patients that they have seen.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?I wanted to do a biology-based degree, but I knew many biology degrees involve a lot of lab work which I was never really a fan of. I realised, from my jobs as a riding stable assistant and as an OA, that I really enjoyed interacting with different people. Optometry ticked all the boxes. I like the amount of variety that comes with the job as no two patients are the same.
What are the main challenges of the university course and what challenges has the outbreak of COVID-19 added?Before the lockdown, I found that I sometimes struggled with time management and I found it hard to keep my notes up to date, complete extra reading where necessary and find time to practice my clinical skills, as well as making time to do the things I enjoy outside of optometry.
The outbreak of COVID-19 added a lot of uncertainty around all of our upcoming assessments, which wasn’t useful in terms of planning revision. On top of that was the added stress of trying to decide whether to go home or stay in Cardiff and the anxiety that the lockdown and the virus itself caused.
I hope to continue sharing my experiences as an optometry student and promoting studying optometry
What placements have you carried out and what have you learned?I am quite lucky as I am able to work for my local Specsavers when I am home and for an independent practice when I am in Cardiff, so I have seen a lot of interesting cases. The two placements have allowed me to gain insight into the running of multiples and independents. I feel like this has helped me to make more informed decisions when considering future career options.
I have also sat in on a hospital contact lens clinic which was really eye-opening (pardon the pun), as I hadn’t had much experience with contact lenses. By the end of the day I was a bit sick of RGB lenses, but that placement cemented my goal of wanting to work in a hospital setting as I got to meet a number of different people involved in the hospital’s ophthalmology/optometry department.
Could you tell us what inspired you to launch an optometry-specific blog?I set up my blog when I was in sixth form as a way of motivating myself to study for my A Levels and also because I noticed that there weren’t many UK optometry students who were actively talking about their lives at university. The blog is really useful as it has provided me with a good network of people to go to for advice and it’s also helped me find out more about the opportunities I could have once I’m qualified.
I hope to continue sharing my experiences as an optometry student and promoting studying optometry. I also really enjoy the fact that having the account lets me connect with people who are considering studying optometry and just want to find out a bit more about what the course entails, what living in Cardiff is like etc., as that’s something I wish I had when I was in sixth form