“From Sunday boy to optometry student”
Recent graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University, Ehsan Khan, on his journey from a work experience placement to studying optometry
22 July 2021
When did you first become aware of optometry?It all began at Specsavers Morningside in Edinburgh when I had to undertake some work experience at senior school during my fourth year. I had applied for work experience in various professions such as pharmacies, dentists and optical practices. I applied to nearly 20 different stores and practices however, Specsavers Morningside was the only one to reply and they offered me a week of experience at the practice. Having no prior knowledge or experience of optics, or any job for that matter, I gained an immense amount of knowledge of the profession that week.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?Over my week of work experience I sat through eye exams and was able to serve patients and customers for the first time. I quickly realised that this was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding profession to go into and knew instantly that this was something I wanted to learn more about. By the time I knew it, the week was over, and it was time to go. However, having had such a great time, I was reluctant to leave. Fortunately for me, three days later my director, Michael O’Kane, got back in touch and offered me a Sunday position at his practice, making me ‘the Sunday boy.’ I then decided to study optometry and have not looked back since.
Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?From the first day working at the practice, Michael always took the time to explain various aspects of the profession, as well as the day-to-day running of the practice. Whether it was showing me optical equipment or progressing my customer service through training courses. His passion and dedication for the profession was remarkable and he went on to win an Optometrist of the Year award Scottish Health Awards in 2018. It was at this point that I was certain that this was the career I wanted to pursue. Both my directors, Michael and Joe, have been very supportive over my time at school and university – equipping me with an ophthalmoscope and retinoscope as well as offering me a pre-reg position, which was secured in my second year – and for that I am very grateful.
I am looking forward to what the profession has to offer, the challenges and ultimately the job satisfaction and career advancement opportunities it brings
You have been a class rep for your year at Glasgow Caledonian. What have you enjoyed about this role?One of the main reasons I put myself forward as a class rep was to meet new people in my course as well as assisting them with any concerns they had. After four years of being in this position I am glad I did, as it has been a pleasure working with my peers to raise feedback and concerns to department heads and supervisors in order to improve our overall learning experience.
What’s next for you?I can’t wait to start my pre-reg at Morningside this summer and to get into the test room. There is a lot that I have learnt over my time at university, in terms of the course and general life skills – it really has been a brilliant time, although it has gone very quickly. I am looking forward to what the profession has to offer, the challenges and ultimately the job satisfaction and career advancement opportunities it brings.
What are your expectations of the pre-registration year and how are you planning to prepare?I imagine that the first few weeks will be an intense learning curve and will require quick adjustment. Having up-to-date and sufficient clinical knowledge on all aspects of optometry should be the best form of preparation for pre-reg.
One of the main challenges I expect is getting used to the routine of having a clinic which means seeing patients back-to-back, compared to university where we would normally only examine one patient in a clinic. I think having a full clinic will take some time to get used to.
I also expect the placement to be stressful and testing at times but that will all be part of the learning process. It will be important to be able to take a step back in order to not to get into a panic when difficult situations arise.
What are your career goals?I would eventually like to undertake a post-graduate course in independent prescribing in order to further my knowledge in ocular disease and drugs. I am also keen to get a professional certificate in medical retina and glaucoma. I think my long-term goal is to find and develop my own practice, with a view to becoming involved in the shared care scheme.
I think it is important to note that the university supervisors and department heads have been doing everything possible to make sure the course can be delivered in a smooth and fair way
Studying in lockdown
What have been the main challenges of the course and how has the coronavirus outbreak affected this? What adjustments has your university made for lectures and assessments?I think one of the main challenges for any fourth year student was to ensure that enough patient episodes have been completed for different clinics such as contact lenses, optometry and paediatrics. Since the pandemic, this has been a real challenge as we were no longer able to test real patients and instead had to observe the exam. There has also been a huge decrease in real patients who attend clinic, making it harder to get episodes. We were fortunate enough to still test each other in clinic which counts as an episode, however this still does not replicate a real-life exam.
Another concern that many of us had was how the examinations would take place. It is fair to say that our learning this year has been greatly impacted as the time we spent physically in university was severely reduced. However, appropriate alterations have been made, such as reduced episode numbers and longer exam times, to ensure that no-one is negatively affected and unfairly penalised. I think it is important to note that the university supervisors and department heads have been doing everything possible to make sure the course can be delivered in a smooth and fair way because ultimately, they all want to see us pass and progress.