“A pre-reg optometrist is one of the best value assets in the practice”

Following the launch of the AOP’s Pre-reg register, OT  clinical editor, Dr Ian Beasley, emphasises the benefits a pre-reg can bring to a practice

sight test
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There have been a plethora of casualties within the optometry profession during the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown, not least for business owners and locums.

As the country, and the profession, starts to head slowly towards normality, whatever that may be, there is optimism that businesses will bounce back and the demand for locums will return – particularly with the backlog of patients that has accumulated over the past few months.

Pre-registration students, however, are perhaps in a slightly more precarious position. There are those that are close to finishing their placements and who face uncertainty over when they will take those final steps to qualification. My greatest concern is for the students that have graduated this summer and were primed to start their pre-reg placements now, as well as those that will follow the year after.

Businesses are understandably twitchy about wanting to take on a pre-reg at the moment, with evidence that vacancies have dried up in recent weeks. But are we missing a trick?

To my mind, pound-for-pound and penny-for-penny, a pre-reg optometrist is arguably one of the best value assets in the practice. Perhaps even more so in the context of the current crisis.

Surely it makes sense, whether led by heart or by head, to at least consider what an asset a pre-reg can be

 


A pre-reg is typically paid a salary approximating the Living Wage, yet they bring so much more value to the practice than their salary would imply. They have a degree in optometry and are wholly committed to getting through that final stage to qualifying. They have the clinical competence to pre-screen, take on contact lens teaching, triage, undertake virtual roles, dispense, or even fill in on reception when called upon.

Not forgetting the fact that they can undertake full eye examinations, under supervision of course, at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm the practice with people. As a pre-reg will be seeing far fewer patients than a fully-qualified optometrist, especially in those first few months after starting, this could reduce the number of patients coming into the practice.

There is, of course, the challenge of the potential for COVID-19 risk in that longer contact time, but how does this compare to the risk a qualified optometrist faces from seeing perhaps 12 patients per day, with 30 minutes exposure on each one? The question is, should we be more concerned about a high frequency of exposure at a lower dose, or high dose of exposure but at a lower frequency. I don’t think we have the answer to that yet.

If we contemplate, for a moment, the plight of these students, so near but yet so far from being able to fulfil their career ambitions, and then think about what they can bring to a business for a salary not dissimilar to an experienced optical assistant, surely it makes sense, whether led by heart or by head, to at least consider what an asset a pre-reg can be.