How I got here

You had me at hospital

Hospital optometrist, Holly Higgins, shares her passion for hospital optometry

Holly Higgins

My best friend Vanessa worked as an optical assistant at Vision Express in Worksop and helped me secure work experience that enabled me to sit in with their optometrist for a day during sixth form. At the time, I was doing a bit of a ‘healthcare career tour,’ sitting in with different professionals. It’s safe to say that tour ended with optometry.

I always wanted a career in healthcare because it is a good mix of working with people and using your knowledge to help people. I initially thought dentistry was for me, and had a lot of kind help from my dentist, Mr Rafferty, sitting in his clinics observing. However, after going to different university open days I found I preferred optometry – where I am right now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

As any of my optometry friends will know, I am a hospital optom through and through. There’s never really been any other dream for me than working in the hospital setting. This all began when Tim Hunter gave a presentation about hospital optometry at the first optometry social during my first year at university. After that, my heart was set on working in the hospital, and that is where I have been ever since. Working in the hospital for my pre-reg year really helped with my applications after qualifying, because I knew how things were run and what it takes to work in a hospital setting. I had a few different interviews and provisional job offers from hospitals before I qualified. There was no question for me though that I wanted to work for Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as living in Sheffield has always been a dream of mine having grown up close to the city.

My typical working day is usually hectic. I work in a multitude of different clinics, so each day is varied, which is something that I love about hospital optometry. The clinics I am currently doing are: specialist contact lens/refraction/paediatrics/post-op cataracts. The clinic I do most often is the post-op cataract clinic, in which I have to remove a corneal suture out of most patients, as per the Sheffield protocol. Being trained and able to do this sort of extended part of my job is another reason why working in the hospital can be so exciting, and really shape you into a better optometrist.

"As any of my optometry friends will know, I am a hospital optom through and through. There's never really been any other dream for me than working in the hospital setting"

Working in the hospital is one of many things that I do. I like to keep busy, and like to feel like I am already making my own impact on the profession. Hospital optometry is not for everyone, you have to be motivated and super flexible. However, it is such a niche area of optometry that I think it often gets overlooked. I joined the AOP’s Hospital Optometrists Committee (HOC) in October 2016, and I sit on its Education Working Group (EWG) to represent hospital optometrists. It is nice to know that the AOP want to hear the views of practitioners in all different areas of optometry to aid its decision-making for CET in OT and education for future optometrists.

Your job is as interesting as you make it. There’s plenty to get involved with, such as the EWG. However, you need to be motivated. It is important to know that the profession extends far beyond your testing room walls, and it also helps to understand the different areas that the job can lead to, especially for planning your future career.

As a student, a highlight was going on the Vision Aid Overseas project to Zambia after my second year. Now as a qualified optometrist, a career highlight this year has been getting my first piece of work, Should there be visual standards for optometrists?, published in Optometry in Practice.

The next step in my career stems from my interest in paediatrics being my interest area – I’m really hoping to go into this field further. I have recently become the lead of the Sheffield branch of the charity Eye Heroes. Eye Heroes promotes training children through volunteer-led interactive workshops in schools and after school clubs to become eye health champions, and inform people in their communities about eye health and the benefits of regular eye tests. This will take a lot of time to set up in Sheffield, but I am keen to take on the challenge. I would also really like to branch into working at the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield, and perhaps study for the Higher Paediatric Certificate.

Plan B

Optometry was my plan B. But as I’m sure you can tell by reading a little about me, there’s nothing else I could see myself doing and I hope to have many opportunities in the future.

Image credit: Will Amlott