"I found optometry not just a field of study, but a rewarding area of primary medical care"

Second-year optometry student at City, University of London and AOP student representative, Fatema Master, tells OT  how her work experience placements inspired her career aspirations


When did you first become aware of the profession?

I first became aware of optometry as a 10-year-old when I had an appointment for an eye test. I remember being interested in how the optometrist could find out my prescription by shining a light into my eyes and putting different types of lenses in front of me.

What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?

At the age of 16 I started work experience at an independent opticians as an optical assistant. I gained a lot of insight into what an optometrist does, as I had the chance to sit and watch how an eye test was performed. I remember finding it very intriguing, that an optometrist can detect conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, just by looking into someone’s eyes.

I attended a health screening event where I met a hospital optometrist, who offered me a work experience placement to shadow an optometrist for a week at Milton Keynes University Hospital (MKUH). I learnt about the different types of ocular conditions and treatments, which are advancing all the time. As a result, I decided to read further into clinical ophthalmology.

At a CET event, I met the manager of Blakelands Hospital and requested work experience to shadow an ophthalmologist. Observing the surgeries and discussing cases gave me an extensive amount of knowledge, which inspired me for my future. Combining all of this with my parent’s guidance, I found optometry not just a field of study, but a stimulating and rewarding area of primary medical care. From my experience, I found helping people and improving their quality of life to be one of the biggest highlights of the profession.

Who influenced or inspired your decision to go into optometry?

My biggest inspiration to study optometry stemmed from my parents, who have always been role models to me. I watched them both help to improve people’s vision, which showed me how meaningful and committed they are towards their work.

What are your career goals?

My goal is to graduate with first-class honours. I love the idea of studying further and would like to work in a hospital because I like the diversity of different clinics. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made me even more passionate about working for the NHS; the key front-line workers have really inspired me with their dedication and the care that they have given to the patients.

Meeting people from all walks of life and seeing how professionals apply their knowledge, as well as solving problems in a consultation, is what I look forward to in the future as an optometrist


What placements have you carried out and what have you learned from them?

Working in an opticians from the age of 16 built my foundation of knowledge on the core modules covered in optometry. One of the main aspects I learned was communication; building a good rapport with patients. This gave me an understanding of the world of optometry.

I completed work experience at both Blakelands Hospital and MKUH, where I met a diversity of patients of all different ages and ocular conditions. This made me more determined to support and help people save their vision. Observing the theatre at Blakelands Hospital gave me an understanding of the importance of accuracy and attention to detail. A two-way communication with specialists, actively sharing information of common eye conditions in patients, and procedures pre and post-surgery, as well as experiencing cataract and glaucoma clinics by listening to consultations, increased my knowledge significantly.

At MKUH seeing a variety of clinics from cataracts, glaucoma, low vision, paediatrics to contact lens clinics, made me notice everything from a different point of view. Meeting people from all walks of life and seeing how professionals apply their knowledge, as well as solving problems in a consultation, is what I look forward to in the future as an optometrist.

What do you enjoy about being an AOP student representative?

Being a student representative has given me the chance to communicate with different departments of the AOP and to develop an understanding of its role in the optometry field. I have been in touch with my fellow peers at City University regarding current events and any guidance they are looking for from the AOP for concerns they may have, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. I enjoyed meeting all the AOP student representatives from other universities on the induction day. I look forward to all the other opportunities that will come from being an AOP student representative.

What are your expectations of the pre-reg year and how will you prepare?

I feel pre-reg will be the year that I will learn the most from my years of studying optometry; it will give me the real insight of my profession. It will be challenging, but an opportunity to make the most of my learning. I feel my third-year clinics will prepare me the most for my pre-registration.

How have you and your course been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak?

Due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19, the university ceased all face to face teaching and the lectures were moved online. Our practical assessments that were due in March, and our theory in May, have all been cancelled and appropriate alternatives are being considered for a later date. The university has been in constant contact with us, updating us on the situation.

What is next for you?

My goal is to go to Tanzania sometime in the future as an optometrist, to help those who are unable to afford health care appointments. This will be an amazing opportunity to manage eye conditions I have never seen before, and to be able to practise the clinical skills I have learnt at university.