Finding your calling
Optometrist and practice manager of Boots Opticians in Greenford Westway, Lorna Carasco, shares her career journey into optometry
23 April 2020
My first introduction to optics was my first visit to the opticians.I attended an independent practice when I was about 10 years old. I was the typical early myope, struggling to see the board at school. In terms of early memories, the visit is one that I can really visualise because the optician there had quite an impact on me. Collecting my glasses, which were a -1 prescription, putting them on and seeing the world come to life again was a very powerful feeling.
How has the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak affected your practice and your work as an optometrist?With the outbreak of COVID-19, we saw a sudden reduction in patients attending the practice around mid-March. This was before the government advised people to stay at home. In practice we had adapted our normal procedures, including restricting the numbers of patients in the practice at any one time, and followed strict hygiene processes such as disinfecting all surfaces and hand-washing. We later stopped seeing patients for routine tests and offered urgent eye care only, following guidance from the College of Optometrists. We continued to closely check and follow the daily updated guidance from the College, NHS England and our head office. On 24 March the practice closed and all colleagues, myself included, have been furloughed. All calls and care are triaged to the 22 Boots Opticians that are staffed to provide emergency and essential care. Many of my Boots Opticians colleagues have now offered to be testers at the COVID-19 testing stations for NHS workers.
While having my eyes tested and being prescribed spectacles had a big impact on me, up until the age of 16 I thought that I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become an accountant.
This changed when I did some work experience in his office during the summer holidays and I realised that I definitely didn’t want to do an office-based job. I started to think about what I could do – I knew that I wanted each day to be varied, I wanted to work with different people and I wanted to be able to see the difference that I would be making so I considered optometry. I went to a local opticians for work experience during the Easter holidays and it just clicked. I thought, ‘This is for me.’
I studied at City, University of London before completing my pre-reg at Boots Opticians in North Finchley.
I stayed with Boots after qualification, initially as a mobile optometrist working all over London. I visited every type of practice, from the tiny shoe box stores to the big flagships, which gave me a good idea of how different practices operated. I then became a resident optometrist with the multiple and after that took on a management role. I have managed a couple of stores over the years and have been practice manager at Boots in Greenford Westway since 2013.
I started offering myopia management to patients as soon as Boots introduced CooperVision’s MiSight 1 day contact lens.
In preparation for the launch, we were provided with online training and, as a practice, started to speak to patients about the product. By the time it arrived in store, we had a list of around a dozen patients who were interested and wanted to come in for a trial.
I was excited about being able to offer this product because I feel that myopia management is something that eye care practitioners should offer
I was excited about being able to offer this product because I feel that myopia management is something that eye care practitioners should offer.
I feel obliged to let the parent and the patient know that this option is here and available. Most parents I speak to about myopia are unaware that there is a treatment option that can slow down the vision change. They are always interested, even if they don’t take up the option.
When talking to patients and their parents about myopia management, I find it useful to go through two scenarios:
the likely outcome if we carry on prescribing glasses versus if we fit MiSight 1 day contact lenses. I also share my own experience as well as success stories with patients as I have found that’s what people respond to.
I went to a local opticians for work experience during the Easter holidays and it just clicked. I thought, ‘This is for me’
During my career, a highlight for me is the wide range of things that I have managed to do with Boots Opticians, from being an optometrist and supervising pre-regs, to store management and area training.
I am excited to have recently been accepted to practise at my local primary care centre. This will enable me to work with local ophthalmologists and see the next stage in the patient journey. I have also recently been considering the independent prescribing qualification too.
- As told to Emily McCormick.