Securing a pre-reg placement

As optometry graduate Nikki Sharma prepares to begin her pre-reg year at Boots Opticians, she shares her journey navigating applications and interviews that got her to this point

Nikki Sharma

The interview process for the pre-registration year started much earlier than I had expected and was much more intense than what I was prepared for. It was a gruelling and competitive journey due to the ever-growing number of optometry students graduating.

I had initially received interviews for a few independents, as well as the ‘big three;’ Boots Opticians, Vision Express and Specsavers. Although all of the interviews were very different, the intricacies within each remained the same. Vision Express and Specsavers both opted for group activities followed by individual interviews, whilst Boots Opticians decided to conduct an individual interview.

Selecting the placement

As I prepare to begin my pre-reg placement next month, ultimately, I decided on Boots Opticians.

My decision was influenced by its patient-centred ethos and, as a former nursing student, its distinctive method of delivering individualised patient care, such as the Zookeeper Zoe story for young children, which appealed very much to me.

While I have gained experience at another multiple during my studies, I completed a summer placement at Boots and I was quickly able to appreciate its distinctive approach to undertaking patient care.

Though I am nervous about working in a new environment, I am excited about the skills that I will be able to develop at Boots. This includes becoming more efficient at refracting through static retinoscopy, which I feel will benefit me greatly when working with patients who may not be able to communicate due to a language barrier or young age.

"The pre-reg year is designed to be a learning curve, implementing my university learning in a practice setting with the support of my supervisor and I am confident that my fears will soon become a distant memory"

The year ahead

Having heard about the good, the bad and everything in between from fellow colleagues who have already undertaken their pre-reg training, I am quite anxious and apprehensive to test the general public.

The one thing that I am most nervous about, like any healthcare professional, is not being able to recognise pathological disease. Although we are timetabled in for clinical time with patients as part of training requirements, the thought of working alone through case scenarios without my peers is something that I find daunting.

I expect my pre-reg year to be a rollercoaster journey filled with a range of emotions that symbolise the highs and lows of the process. Whilst I am worried about the prospect of not recognising pathology or misinterpreting results, I appreciate that it is not a tick box exercise but a process to help develop and solidify the skills and knowledge learned when at university.

It will also give me an opportunity to develop my independence and time management skills as not only am I responsible for my learning, but I have to learn to find a healthy work-life balance.

Being away from both home and the hub of comfort and reassurance that is provided at university will be a challenge in itself  – no doubt there will be days where I will have to be emotionally dependent on myself, something I think many students learn through this challenging process.

To prepare for my pre-reg year, I have been seeking advice from some qualified optometrist peers who have gone through the process and emerged on the other side successfully. The key theme mentioned by many of them was organisation. Being organised and having a timetable, they felt, allowed them to become more structured in managing their time and ensured that they were prepared for assessment visits well in advance.

I am eager to start the next chapter of my life, but the idea of an assessor watching my every move, or the possibility of an incredibly difficult case study certainly leaves me nervous.

Nevertheless, the pre-reg year is designed to be a learning curve, implementing my university learning in a practice setting with the support of my supervisor and I am confident that my fears will soon become a distant memory.

Nikki Sharma will be sharing her pre-reg experiences with readers online throughout her qualifying year. Read her next article in September.