"It is hard to believe I may only be months away from becoming a fully qualified optometrist"
Pre-reg optometrist, Peter Grant, shares insight into selecting your pre-reg and how his supervisors have supported him through his journey
September marked one year since I started working as a pre-registration optometrist at Julian Davies Opticians in South Wales. It has been a challenging 12 months in many ways, but one that has helped me grow in confidence and develop as a practitioner. It is hard to believe that I may only be a matter of months away from becoming a fully-qualified optometrist. Although I am apprehensive at the thought of managing patients on my own with no supervision, I am excited at the prospect of advancing my career.
It has been a challenging 12 months in many ways, but one that has helped me grow in confidence and develop as a practitioner
Selecting the right placement
Having previously worked as an optical assistant at a multiple, I have really enjoyed experiencing an independent practice and seeing what it has to offer.
While I had the opportunity to complete my pre-reg placement with a multiple, upon meeting the supervisors at Julian Davies Opticians, getting on so well with them, and learning that they had recently been successful in mentoring a trainee through the Scheme for Registration, I was keen to secure a position and grateful when I did.
To all those who are currently seeking pre-reg positions, I would strongly encourage you to meet with your potential supervisor before deciding whether that is the right practice for you. They will be the person you spend most of your time with throughout the year and having a supervisor who is familiar with the Scheme is particularly reassuring.
I have really valued the time that I have spent one-on-one with my supervisors, where I have had the opportunity to discuss trickier patient episodes and learn from their wealth of experience and expertise. I can appreciate that supervising a trainee fresh out of university must be challenging, so I am grateful for their patience.
Over the next few months I hope to continue working on my ability to manage patients appropriately, and with hard work and determination, my aim is to be fully qualified early next year
Progressing through the Scheme
I am currently working towards completing Stage 2 of the Scheme. The format of the assessment is different to previous years due to COVID-19, with the aim of limiting patient, trainee and assessor contact as much as possible.
One half of the assessment involves direct observation of a sight test and contact lens check in your practice, with the College of Optometrists providing their own patients to be examined. The other half is carried out remotely via Zoom with a College assessor and involves the use of case studies alongside visual field plots, images and questions, with the aim of the trainee demonstrating competence in 13 overarching competencies.
Unfortunately, I have not passed Stage 2 in time to take the September sitting of the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs). All being well, I will sit the January OSCEs instead.
Over the next few months, I hope to continue working on my ability to manage patients appropriately, and with hard work and determination, my aim is to be fully qualified early next year.
Once qualified, I intend on becoming Welsh Eye Care Service (WECS) accredited as soon as possible, which will enable me to diagnose and manage patients presenting with acute eye problems in Wales.
In the future, it is my desire to further my learning by achieving higher qualifications in glaucoma, medical retina and, eventually, independent prescribing, which is becoming more and more crucial in easing pressure on the hospital eye service.
After enjoying a week of annual leave in August, spending time with family and getting engaged, I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things in the test room. A busy few months lie ahead, but it is a huge relief to have the finishing line in sight.
The one tip I would give my peers who are currently preparing for their pre-reg placement would be… Stay organised and try and get into a routine early on that is sustainable. The Scheme for Registration can be tough in terms of the workload, and it can very easily mount up and overwhelm you. On top of working in practice and seeing patients all day, you’ll have to make time to complete your logbook and reflective accounts, as well as paperwork and revision for upcoming assessments. If you can get into a good routine where you stay on top of these aspects and do ‘little and often,’ it means that firstly, the build-up to assessments will go a lot more smootly and, secondly, you can fit in some downtime and time to socialise/partake in hobbies.
The next few months will entail… Hopefully qualification as an optometrist. I passed Stage 2 at the start of the August and, at the time of writing, will be sitting my OSCE in just a few weeks. At the moment, I am busy preparing for that and will be attending some mock OSCE courses in the coming weeks.* It’s been a busy 12 months to get to this point, but I’m proud to reach this milestone and excited about what comes next.
Luke McRoy-Jones is a pre-reg optometrist at Merthyr Optical Centre in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.
*Luke successfully passed his OSCE in October 2021.