“I have enjoyed the opportunity to have some variety in my week”
Pre-reg optometrist Peter Grant tells OT about the benefits of working across three practices as he looks ahead towards Visit 1
Now that I am a few months into my pre-reg, a typical day in work involves me seeing four or five patients, be that for a sight test, contact lens fit or aftercare, a follow-up, or an emergency appointment. I am based in our St Mellons practice, however, on a Tuesday I work in two of our other branches, Newport and Usk, where I spend the day dispensing, carrying out adjustments or repairs, and lending a hand where I can. I have enjoyed this opportunity to have some variety in my week, working with other colleagues in a different environment and gaining a better understanding of how the business functions as a whole.
I believe I have made a great choice with my pre-reg location. I am seeing a variety of patients and I am learning from supervisors who are at the forefront of an everchanging profession, with further qualifications in areas such as glaucoma, low vision, and independent prescribing. Recently, my supervisors successfully supported a pre-reg optometrist through the scheme, so they understand what it takes to pass each stage and can ensure I am well prepared for my assessments. Now a fully qualified optometrist, the previous pre-reg continues to work for the practice group so I can always call on her for any extra advice, which I am grateful for. The staff have been very welcoming to me and I have really enjoyed being integrated into the team.
The previous pre-reg continues to work for the practice group so I can always call on her for any extra advice, which I am grateful for
At the end of November I was officially enrolled on the scheme for registration. It feels like I am now on the road to becoming a fully qualified optometrist. Although this is a little daunting, I am excited by the challenges that lie ahead.
The first two ‘visits’ in Stage 1 will be different from previous years as they will be remote rather than face-to-face. Therefore, the onus is on my supervisors and me to have relevant patient records anonymised and ready to screen share on the day, as well as completing witness testimonies for competencies such a keratometry and focimetry, which will be sent to the assessor beforehand. I have already started brushing up on the knowledge I will be required to demonstrate, while also ear-marking potential patient encounters to present as evidence for the first 12 competencies assessed in Visit 1.
In terms of balancing work with study, I have a half day on a Friday and Saturday which gives me time to keep my studying ticking over and allows me to research anything interesting I have seen that week in work. If a patient does not show up and I am not needed on the practice floor, I have also been able to do some extra study in my testing room. In the first few months of pre-reg I concentrated on getting my practical skills up to scratch, having been away from the testing room for so long. However, now that I am enrolled on the scheme with an assessment date to work towards, studying has become more of a focus.
My favourite part of the pre-reg is… Being in the consulting room, meeting patients and examining eyes. Going back to the fundamentals, the optometry profession is all about improving a patient’s quality of life by enabling them to have the best vision possible and ensuring their eyes are healthy and comfortable. Combined with my love of interacting with people, this was one of the key motivations for training as an optometrist.
My least favourite part of the pre-reg is… The uncertainty we’ve faced so far. For many weeks, I and other new pre-registration trainees faced real uncertainty over what our pre-registration year may look like, due to the pandemic. Thankfully, the College of Optometrists has now communicated changes to the Scheme and formally enrolled us, which has been a relief.
The key thing I’ve learnt so far is that… No two days or two patients are the same. You’ll have good days and you’ll have challenging days. Reflection, resilience and asking for help when you need it are all key. Pre-reg is about developing and learning, so you can become a well-rounded optometrist.
Luke McRoy-Jones is a pre-reg optometrist at Merthyr Optical Centre in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.