“Optometry really stood out for me”
Sarah Hollyhead, AOP student representative and third year student at the University of Plymouth, tells OT how optometry jumped out to her as a career
27 December 2021
When did you first become aware of the profession?I was aware of the profession from childhood as my younger brother required spectacles. I then had a sight test myself and was so interested by the different tests that the optometrist did and I wanted to find out more. I did some work experience and the optometrists’ knowledge and enjoyment of the role made me sure that this was the path I wanted to take.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?Since that eye test I looked more into the role of the optometrist. I have always enjoyed meeting new people and helping in the community so I knew I wanted to work with the general public. I looked into different health care professions but optometry was the one that really stood out for me. An optometrist then showed me my mum’s iris on a slit lamp which I found amazing, along with looking at fundus photographs. I was so excited to learn more about the structures and potential pathologies.
My mum works in dentistry which inspired my interest in working in the health care sector, although I knew dentistry wasn’t my area of interest. Her passion for caring for people influenced me to look into other professions, where I found optometry. Since then, I have had amazing lecturers that continue to inspire me throughout my university life.
Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?
It is so rewarding to see the changes that are made as a result of our regular meetings
What are your career goals?I aim to complete some additional professional qualifications including independent prescribing and glaucoma, as these are two areas that optometrists are getting more involved in, and therefore will help to give patients the best care possible. I plan to pursue a career as a resident optometrist until I have the resources to potentially own my own practice.
What do you enjoy about being an AOP student representative?I really enjoy having the opportunity to help my peers getting their voices and concerns heard and being so involved with the AOP. It is so rewarding to see the changes that are made as a result of our regular meetings. I also enjoy getting to know the reps from the other universities and knowing how the courses vary between the universities and how the pandemic has impacted them.
What placements have you carried out, and what have you learned from them?We have had a mixture of in-person and virtual placements that have opened my eyes to the different career paths in optometry. These placements alongside working in practice have enabled me to see multiple, independent, and hospital optometry to help me to decide what career path I want to pursue.
What’s next for you?
I will graduate from Plymouth University this summer and then start my pre-reg with Boots Opticians.
How did the coronavirus outbreak impact your course and how did you adapt?COVID-19 meant that we had limited practice time with increased personal protective equipment and online lectures. The class sizes were reduced for clinics, which was positive because it meant we got much more contact time with the lecturers, to help us with specific techniques. The online lectures mean there are less distractions from others around you and it is easier to ask questions to the lecturers as it isn’t in front of the whole cohort, however I am excited for us to change to hybrid lectures in the new year.
What have been some of the concerns students have had during this time, and do you have any tips to help maintain wellbeing?
The main concern for most students has been trying to find a pre-reg as many stores have decided not to take one on and there is a backlog from previous years, making places even more limited.
It is important for students to stay positive and keep talking to friends, family, and the university to get any support they need and to raise any concerns that they have. Additionally, students need to remember to take a break and have some downtime to focus on their mental health.