The road into optometry
Optometry student Nikki Sharma (pictured) shares her journey into optics as she embarks on her third year at Aston University
21 September 2017
Having originally studied nursing at King’s College London, it was only after working at St George’s Hospital in Wandsworth and caring for an ophthalmic patient that my interest in optometry was sparked.
The patient in question had suffered from an accident that had left them without vision in both eyes, something that could not be rectified. I was amazed to discover that this did not alter the patient’s awareness or independence, and I became particularly interested in the care that had been undertaken by healthcare professionals to help achieve this.
Fortunately for me, I worked within a very supportive team of nursing and university staff who helped me to gain enough courage to leave my ‘safe’ choice and pursue a career in optometry.
My optometry firsts
After leaving King’s, I applied for my first optical job at a High Street franchise where I learnt all the basics, from welcoming patients and undertaking the pre-screenings, to dispensing and ensuring the collection of glasses.
Whilst working there, I had the opportunity to look after and carry out the collection of spectacles for a young girl with Down’s Syndrome. From stepping foot into the store, she appeared to be understandably hesitant and held onto her mother for comfort. However, after discovering her vivid interest in anything to do with Frozen, I started to build a rapport with her by talking about her favourite characters and she slowly began to feel more relaxed around me. Not only was it great to see her smile when she allowed me to fit her new glasses so that she could see clearly, but that experience alone taught me the importance of adapting to the patient’s needs.
"It has been astonishing to see the vast number of tests that optometrists are required to undertake before determining a patient’s eye health, and how the smallest deterioration can place a patient’s sight at great risk"
Becoming an optometrist
I am now embarking on my final year of optometry at Aston University. During my time at university, as well as in the practice setting, I have learned a lot concerning ophthalmic care, which has only made me look forward to qualification more.
It has been astonishing to see the vast number of tests that optometrists are required to undertake before determining a patient’s eye health, and how the smallest deterioration can place a patient’s sight at great risk.
However, listening to stories from lecturers and seeing various pathology in practice has also provided me with a better understanding of how my learning at university can really differ from what you see in practice.
As part of my summer placement, I was fortunate enough to work in a practice that was heavily infused with several different pathological cases. One case that stood out for me was a middle-aged patient with a very high prescription, who had considerably large floaters. The optometrist treating the patient called me into her room and asked me to tell her what I could see using my ophthalmoscope. I remember feeling quite anxious at the pressure of obtaining a clear fundus image and relaying what I saw. Before I had even focused on the optic disc, I saw what I described as a ‘large wobbly line,’ only realising after the optometrist had told me that I was in fact looking at my first floater. I asked the patient several questions regarding their suppressed vision, appreciating that optometrists’ wealth of knowledge does not only come from books and courses, but from the patients themselves who know better than anyone what it is like to see through their eyes.
Even during my studies to date, optometry has provided me with a platform to help someone to experience the world as I see it, and I look forward to making a difference to the lives of many more patients after I qualify.