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Locum optometrist guide

'Seven lessons I learned during my first week back'

Optometrist and clinical multimedia editor for OT , Ceri Smith-Jaynes, describes her experience returning from furlough and shares her tips for optometrists returning to practise during the pandemic

Locum optometrists returning to practise following the outbreak of the pandemic were confronted with a dramatically altered working environment.

One-way systems have replaced aimless browsing, traditional workwear has been relegated in favour of scrubs, and someone giving you a wide berth is now a sign of courtesy rather than a snub.

Although this change may be initially unsettling, new procedures to keep both staff and patients safe have become second nature to optometrists working in practice.

From pet shop purchases to communicating with patients about the importance of wearing masks, optometrist and clinical multimedia editor for OT, Ceri Smith-Jaynes, shares insight from her first week returning to work in a post COVID-19 world.

1. Buy an electric heat mat from a pet shop – this is normally used in a vivarium to keep your lizard warm but works a treat under a set of trial lenses to stop them misting up and you can use it for your Volk lenses too. Alternatively, rest your clean Volk lens on your computer tower. If nothing is working, tape the top edge of the patient’s mask with microporous surgical tape

First week  heated mat
Ceri's heated mat

2. Your face shield has a tear-off protective film; it could be on both sides. It’s so much clearer once you’ve removed it. I found this out on day three

3. Patients seem to take me more seriously in scrubs than a tailored suit. Is it something different in my demeanour when I wear them or the power of a clinical appearance? Scrubs are incredibly comfy. Just make sure they are loose enough to take off over your head from the back, so you don’t touch your face. I then bundle mine into a pillowcase for washing

4. Make crib sheets and stick them on the wall with the correct order for donning and doffing PPE and cleaning the room so you can free up your brain for other things, such as clinical decision-making. Otherwise taking the time to think about the correct order uses up valuable brain power in the first week back

5. There will be people who decline to wear a mask on entry to the shop. However, I’ve found that acknowledging their reasons, while asking them politely to wear one, usually results in acquiescence, for example: “I understand you’re exempt from wearing a mask but there will be times when I need to get right in front of your face. Would you consider wearing a mask during these procedures?”

6. Watch out for plonkers – some people start emptying their pockets on every surface of your test room. Before you start, hand them a plastic tub and explain it is for their spectacles, phone etc. I have another tub for used trial lenses, so they don’t go back in the rack

First week  Ceri in PPE
Ceri in PPE

7. You’ll get used to the PPE – wearing a facemask and face shield seems cumbersome at first but you will get used to it. Be aware that whatever you had for lunch will haunt you in the afternoon and that menthol chewing gum is an eye-wateringly bad idea.