Coronavirus: on the ground in Lincoln
Optometrist and practice owner, Annabelle Magee, shares the ways she has been keeping in touch with her community through lockdown
05 June 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic transforms the way optometrists practise, OT is sharing the experiences of optometrists across the UK. If you, or a colleague, is interested in sharing your story please get in touch: [email protected]
In a nutshellName: Annabelle Magee
Years qualified: 14
Mode of practice: Practice owner and optometrist. Practitioner with Special Interest accredited.
I have now furloughed all my staff, and I remain open by myself, offering essential and emergency eye care services through an appointment-only ‘locked door’ policy.
I have checked in with many of our elderly patients, just having a chat over the phone with them if they are lonely. I have also fetched and delivered essentials like milk for anyone who is on their own and struggling
Through social media and direct-to-patient emails, I’ve made it clear to patients that we are still here for them if they are having any eye problems. I have collected repairs from local patients’ doorsteps and delivered them back to them if they haven’t had anyone who could drop their broken spectacles to the practice.
I have checked in with many of our elderly patients, just having a chat over the phone with them if they are lonely. I have also fetched and delivered essentials like milk for anyone who is on their own and struggling. I obviously haven’t charged anyone for these extra services – it is about supporting my community.
At the moment I am concerned about when we will return to work and what this will look like. How will we be performing consultations and what risks will we be taking? Will we be told how to resume normal practice, for example, one patient in and one patient out? I feel the lack of direction on this point is worrying.
If we are told to offer a very limited service on returning to routine practice, I would like to know what financial support will be available to me as a business owner. I need to increase business in order to be viable, but if I will be restricted on how many patients are allowed into the practice it will take a much longer time for the business to recover.
I look at the positives, such as this extra time I’m getting to spend with my young family
As a practitioner, we need guidance on what will be expected of us when lockdown is lifted. Patients and staff will be afraid of resuming ‘normal life’. We have been told to get personal protective equipment (PPE) but supply chains are depleted. Will optometrists become more of a priority for PPE? How long will we need to be modifying our services for?
We offer a very in-depth personal medical service and doing this with limited contact is very difficult. We could move towards more history-taking over the telephone to minimise the time the patient is in practice, but it is very impersonal and often we use social cues such as body language to read a patient at the history-taking stage.
Modifying our service will be difficult. I do think there is a lot more we could be doing in primary care though to aid the hospitals, as they will have such a backlog of patients. I hope it will improve the communication channels between primary and secondary care, leading to more being done in primary care, for example stable glaucoma monitoring.
Keeping positiveThe outbreak has led to some juggling in my personal life. My husband is a primary school teacher and we have an eight-year old son and five-year old daughter. It has been a juggle for both of us to go to work, home-school the children and make sure we are all safe. My husband and I are being overly cautious that we try to not bring the virus home from work to the children.
Adapting to the challenges coronavirus has caused made me realise that I am a positive person. I look at the positives, such as this extra time I’m getting to spend with my young family. I’ve been enjoying the slower pace of life and not having the normal frenetic lifestyle of juggling a full time business, school runs, after school clubs and not missing the important moments in the children’s lives.
It has been a pleasure to be at home with the four of us as a unit, supporting each other and relishing our time together. I made an extra effort to make sure the mental health of my team is ok too. From regular WhatsApp messages, to posting them little gifts to brighten their day. I even sent them a daft video where I dressed up, danced and re-wrote the lyrics to “I will survive” for them. I think they’ve certainly seen a different side of me.