“My day doesn’t stop when the practice closes”
Pre-reg optometrist Luke McRoy-Jones on balancing work and study and preparing for his first assessment
The end of 2020 marked the end of an incredibly challenging year for society and the profession.
What was supposed to be the year of vision quickly turned out to be a year of disruption, restrictions and for some, loss, as we faced the biggest challenge of our lifetimes. As I write this, hope lies ahead for 2021 thanks to the incredible scientific effort to get a vaccine.
Despite all of the disruption, I was grateful to be able to start my pre-registration placement at Merthyr Optical Centre in September. The end of the year marked the end of my first three months in practice.
At the time of writing my last piece, I was seeing around four patients per day. Over the past few months, I’ve gradually worked up to seeing up to eight patients per day and I’ve now accumulated over 300 eye examinations, as well as over 150 dispenses.
My typical day usually starts with some preparation. When I first get in, I prepare the consulting room, change into my scrubs and PPE, and then spend some time going through the patient records for the day. This begins with looking at some basic aspects, such as the patient age and if they are presenting early or on time for their eye examination, before analysing in more detail to determine any health conditions, ocular history and the outcome of their last eye examination.
Over the past few months I’ve gradually worked up to seeing up to eight patients per day, and I’ve now accumulated over 300 eye examinations
I find this massively helpful as it means I am more organised and fluent with the patient. It allows me to start to build up an idea of what questions I’ll want to ask during the history and symptoms and what clinical tests may be necessary. Furthermore, it also provides the opportunity to identify certain conditions, medications or symptoms that I may want to read up on, or ask my supervisor about, ahead of seeing the patient.
I now get around 50 minutes to perform an eye examination and dispense, if required. In addition to routine eye examinations, I also perform contact lens fits and aftercares, as well as some acute appointments through Eye Health Examination Wales (EHEW).
At the end of the day, I get some administration time blocked out, which allows me to catch up on some of the extra tasks that have cropped up in the day, such as writing non-urgent referrals, completing GP reports as part of the EHEW scheme, and completing my logbook.
However, my day doesn’t stop when the practice closes. On arriving home, I usually have some admin left to complete, in addition to any revision that I want to do. This can be challenging, especially after a full, tiring day in clinic. Nevertheless, I tend to find it’s helpful to stay on top of the administrative tasks and revise a little every day. This means that tasks don’t mount up, which could be overwhelming. I also think it’s important to maintain a work/life balance and reward work with recreation, such as going for a walk or playing on the Xbox (as our recreational choices are fairly limited at the moment.)
What is unusual is that I am yet to take any formal assessment as part of the Scheme for Registration. While the College allowed us to register and start gaining clinical experience, it wasn’t until recently that we were formally enrolled, as COVID-19 restrictions meant they had to adapt the Scheme and also catch up on the previous cohort’s assessments.
As I look to my first assessment, which is now a few weeks away, I look forward to making some progress on the Scheme for Registration and, hopefully, to an exciting year ahead.
I’m planning to balance work with study by… using my free time in the evenings to make notes and revise. I will also use the weekends to consolidate everything I’ve learnt during the week.
The first thing I hope to achieve/learn is… I hope that I get into a proper routine and feel right at home here in London. I can’t wait to start getting back into testing and can’t wait to see/learn about interesting pathology in the hospital.
Emily Mather is a pre-registration optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.