“If you have a passion for optometry, go for it”
Final year Cardiff University student, Orlaith Duffy, tells OT about her upcoming “dream” pre-reg placement, and how regular hospital appointments as a child influenced her interest in optometry
02 August 2022
When did you first become aware of the profession?My infatuation with optometry began during regular childhood visits to my ophthalmologist. Many remain blissfully unaware of the eyes and their pathophysiology until age-related visual deterioration sets in, however my relationship with sight has been at the forefront of my childhood and adolescence. My own personal journey with ocular albinism and nystagmus is inseparable from my passion for optometry.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?
I wanted to do something in the medical field as I have always wanted to help others and I knew this would be an incredibly rewarding career. I think my regular hospital appointments as a child made me familiar and comfortable with the optometry environment, which is why I became so interested in becoming an optometrist.
Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?
My brother, Caolan, inspired me to go into optometry. He is a doctor and this enhanced my interest in the medical field as I wanted to follow in his footsteps, having seen him study throughout medical school. He always inspired me to achieve my goals. Undertaking work experience at the hospital during my GCSEs and A-Levels also influenced my decision as I observed a variety of optometry and ophthalmology clinics.
My relationship with sight has been at the forefront of my childhood and adolescence
What placements, volunteering, or experiences have you had in optometry, and what have you learned from them?
I undertook a shadowing week at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) with consultant ophthalmologist, Mr Richard Bowman, during Summer 2019. During my time at GOSH, I observed many paediatric ophthalmology clinics. These included neuro-ophthalmology, medical retina, oculoplastics, electrophysiology, and genetic eye disease.
I also had the privilege of observing surgeries at GOSH, including squint surgery and vitreoretinal surgery. This experience provided valuable insight into how optometrists fit within a wider multi-disciplinary team delivering hospital eye services.
Throughout my undergraduate degree at Cardiff University, I further explored my passion for paediatric optometry by assisting Dr Maggie Woodhouse in her special assessment clinics. Dr Maggie Woodhouse has taught me so much throughout my time at Cardiff, which I will always be grateful for.
What’s next for you? What are your longer-term career goals?
I will be starting my pre-registration year in August 2022 at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. I’m so excited to begin the next part of my career in optometry and I’m really looking forward to learning as much as possible. In the future, I would love to continue my learning by undertaking the independent prescribing and medical retina courses. Paediatric optometry is an area of profound personal and professional interest for me which I would love to be more involved with in the future. I also hope to gain more experience in low vision as it is an area very close to my heart.
What are your expectations of the pre-reg year and how are you preparing?
I think it will be a very challenging year, especially balancing work whilst studying at the same time. I think revision for my final university exams will help my preparation for pre-reg, but I also intend to revise again before starting so I can refresh my memory and to help me feel more prepared. I am very organised, and I always keep ahead of my notes, which I hope will benefit me during the pre-reg year.
I think Moorfields will be an incredible learning opportunity as I will be surrounded by experts and I’m really looking forward to gaining experience in a variety of clinics to improve my clinical skills and knowledge. I have always wanted to do my pre-reg at Moorfields, so it really is a dream come true.
I have always wanted to do my pre-reg at Moorfields, so it really is a dream come true
What reflections can you make of your university experience, and what advice would you offer to optometry students?
Time will fly: enjoy every second and use your time wisely. Make use of your practice clinics as these will strengthen your skills and remember to ask lots of questions as lecturers are always willing to help and they provide a wealth of information. I have loved my time at Cardiff University, and I can’t believe it is coming to a close.
Experiencing visual impairment: “Adaptations can always be made”
Could you tell us more about how your personal journey has influenced your interest in optometry and your desire to pursue this career?My own visual impairment was something that I could have viewed as an obstacle to my chosen career, although I would argue that it has had the opposite effect. My diagnoses have given me a strong sense of identity, in addition to a deepened sense of empathy for my patients and the challenges their impairments bring about. My impairment has empowered me to overcome adversity and act as an advocate for those who have visual impairments. It has strengthened my determination to pursue my academic interests and develop my clinical skills.
Is there anything that you would want optometrists or other students to know?Adaptations can always be made; we are able to make adjustments for our patients so why can’t we make them for ourselves? Throughout my time at Cardiff University, my lecturers have always been willing to help or find ways to adapt clinical techniques. Their help and encouragement has been invaluable.
Would you have a message to other prospective optometry applicants about pursuing their career ambitions with visual impairment?
If you have a passion for optometry, go for it. Follow your dreams and overcome any obstacles that stand in your way. Optometry is constantly evolving, which means adaptations can always be made to make things easier.
Are you a student, pre-reg or newly-qualified optometrist? Get in touch with OT to share your journey into optometry so far.