“I look forward to completing my journey”
Daniel Chung, a pre-reg optometrist in Cribbs Causeway, Bristol, catches us up on his past few months
Life just before lockdown
Just before COVID-19 became a national pandemic, life in practice was slower but still ongoing. Consultations started to become remote, and contact lens wearers on direct debits who were due check-ups were contacted to ensure they had no concerns and could continue on their scheme for three or six months (with hope that restrictions might have been eased by the latter).
This initially presented as a challenge, especially after just leaving university, as it goes against every instinct of needing to check vision accurately, as well as checking health and contact lens fit. However, it also came as a blessing as when triaging patients my ability to form differential diagnosis based on symptoms alone, and what action plan best suited that patient, was enhanced. When lockdown began, I was furloughed.
Accepting the new normWhile this virus could not have come at a worse time, in some respects it is almost a blessing. Speaking to newly qualified optometrists (as well as seeing first-hand myself), during pre-reg it can be difficult to manage work and studying. While eventually you develop a routine, there is always something else you could’ve learnt to enhance your knowledge further.
When triaging patients remotely my ability to form differential diagnosis based on symptoms alone, and what action plan best suited that patient, was enhanced
Whilst furloughed, we had more time to study different areas of competence at a more relaxed rate. I could also look into potential areas of future study in the form of higher certificates, especially those run by Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre (WOPEC), which fortunately working for Specsavers gives me access to. This is an invaluable resource, as it provides additional information on top of my university notes, and further prepares me for Minor Eye Conditions Service (MECS) accreditation post qualifying.
A particular area of interest is paediatrics and myopia control. With the prediction that 50% of the population will be myopic by 2050, it would be wise to start looking into different management options, whether that be optical correction or simply lifestyle changes. A particular form of myopia control I look forward to developing my expertise with is contact lenses, such as multifocals or orthokeratology. Both show great results on the path to reducing myopia progression, and by following key guidelines I have no doubt that I could further enhance the quality of life of my patients - something currently I feel unable to do.
Making the most of itInevitably, with pre-reg put on hold, motivation to keep studying has been almost non-existent, though fortunately different corporations have provided free webinars to aid continued education, training and pre-reg support.
A particular resource I have found incredibly beneficial is Optotutor, run by Bansi Dhamecha, a previous Specsavers director with several years of experience. As an extremely kind gesture, webinars covering all competencies of Stage 2 were gifted to pre-reg students for free, to aid with motivation to keep studying. For the student who is most involved each session, free record assessment is awarded (which I fortunately obtained) and a 15-station mock OSCE is appointed to a lucky student who attends all sessions.
There is always something else you could’ve learnt to enhance your knowledge further
The material covered is fantastic, covering knowledge in all areas of competence and case scenarios that we can then discuss and break down. This in turn helps to aid critical thinking and management development. There are also different assessor-style questions to help ensure you’re as prepared as possible. I’d highly recommend this resource to any current or prospective pre-reg students.
Once lockdown is over, I look forward to completing my journey and putting all this acquired knowledge into practice.
Finally, I’d also advise myself not to be afraid to take on challenging cases or ask friendly patients if they are happy to sit in for practising certain competencies, such as rigid gas permeable contact lenses (RGPs) and Goldmann.
The one thing I hope I’ll learn by the end of my pre-reg period is how to efficiently use details provided by the patient in history and symptoms to aid the diagnosis and management of the issues that they may be experiencing. I hope to continue seeing a range of pathology and complications, to aid my learning and to gain a better insight into life in a hospital practice once I complete my hospital placement.
Samrina Awan is a pre-reg optometrist in Pinner, north west London