Improving vision on a daily basis
First year optometry student at the University of Huddersfield, Iqra Saeed, talks to OT about what drew her to optometry and the impact COVID-19 had on the course
31 July 2020
When did you first become aware of the profession?
I first became aware of the profession around the time I was studying A-Levels and was searching for a suitable health-related career.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?
The idea of helping to improve vision for others on a daily basis brought me great satisfaction. I have a few family members that are able to carry out their daily tasks with the help of spectacles. This is all thanks to the role of an optometrist.
Who influenced your decision to go into optometry?
My decision to go into optometry was influenced by one of my A-Level teachers. I was provided with work experience at Vision Express and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I was impressed with the way the optometrist efficiently worked with staff to carry out routine examinations and help different patients. This positive experience attracted me to choose optometry as my career.
What are the main challenges of the university course and what challenges has the outbreak of COVID-19 added?
One of the challenges for my course pre-COVID-19 was getting used to the optometry equipment in practicals. However, demonstrations by my lecturers and many practice sessions have helped me overcome this challenge. As a new optometry course, the teaching and support has been fantastic.
The outbreak has had a massive impact on our practical sessions. The objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) had to be cancelled, due to the close proximity it requires. Online teaching has been provided to help with the absence of lectures and a few practical sessions. For the future, the course is hoping to reassess practical elements that were missed from the OSCE.
What placements have you carried out and what have you learned?
My experience at Knowle Park Opticians and Vision Express helped me understand how an independent practice differs from a multiple. For example, I felt that Knowle Park Opticians had a quiet atmosphere with fewer patients.
My work experience at Airedale General Hospital gave me an insight on the importance of communication between staff and patients. The way the paediatrician communicated to children was different to the communication they used in the elderly care unit. My observations from this experience helped me to understand that an optometrist would require excellent communication skills to successfully examine and diagnose a patient.
What has being an AOP Student Representative involved so far and what do you enjoy about being a rep?
Being an AOP representative has involved me collaborating with members from different optometry courses in the UK. I enjoy this role because we can share different ideas and address issues that may be relevant to all optometry courses. Our recent discussions have involved COVID-19 and how we can help optometry students that have concerns during this difficult time.
What are your career goals?
At the moment, I am still exploring my career options and hoping to graduate with first class honours. I am currently drawn to paediatric optometry and independent practice. However, this may change as time goes by and I learn more during my degree.
What’s next for you?
Being involved in the optometry society and carrying out the role of an AOP representative makes me excited for future events, such as 100% Optical and World Sight Day. I also look forward to carrying out more clinical work and gaining experience for my pre-reg year.
Studying in lockdown
How has the outbreak of COVID-19 impacted your course and how have you had to adapt?COVID-19 has had a massive impact on our course. Exams were carried out online and our OSCE was cancelled. Other practical sessions had to be replaced with online teaching and notes. Leading up to exams, our lecturers held many online video sessions via Zoom. This was to help students understand the layout of the online exams and address their concerns. Lectures and revision sessions were also recorded for our benefit. I adapted by taking advice from my tutor and then revising in a way I normally would.
COVID-19 has also made it difficult to gain experience over the summer, as many practices are currently not accepting any students.
What advice would you have for others on helping to maintain their mental health and wellbeing during this time?The main concerns of students have been that they have missed practical elements of the course. They are also concerned about what the future holds, as there is no certain answer for when it will be safe to work in clinics again. A lot of the understanding of optometry takes place through practical work, so students believe this is affecting their learning.
My tips for helping other students to maintain their wellbeing is to take breaks when they are feeling overwhelmed and do something they enjoy. Going for a walk outside and meditating are some of the things I do for myself.