Pre-reg focus

Pre-reg Q&A: “This is your year for learning and self-development”

This year’s pre-reg contributors, Samrina Awan, Tamara Hasan and Daniel Chung, on how COVID-19 upended their year and what they’ve learnt along the way

Samrina Awan

Did your choice of pre-reg placement work well for you?

Daniel: I think in order to know where you wish to work in the future, you need to try all settings and I’m glad I started in a multiple. The support provided has been fantastic in making me a proficient optometrist, and working with colleagues across different stores and meeting fellow pre-regs made the process much easier to settle into.

Samrina: I decided to move from an independent to a multiple to experience what a busy testing environment feels like, and in the hope of having more competency opportunities. The support I received from my supervisors, directors and staff members made the transition very easy.

Moving to a multiple to continue my pre-reg was one of the best decisions I made. I thoroughly enjoy the busy working environment. It is also great knowing that there are pre-regs in the neighbouring stores, with whom I can discuss case scenarios. We can use each other for additional revision.

Tamara: I am very happy that I made the choice to do my pre-reg in hospital as it has shown me how varied a hospital career can be. It has been rewarding to be taught by expert supervisors, and I have really enjoyed delving into more specialist services - particularly learning about complex contact lenses and low vision.

Daniel Chung
Daniel Chung

What initially made you choose these placements?

T: I chose hospital for various reasons, one of them being the chance for career progression. At university I was intrigued by ocular disease and pathology, which I thought I would get to see more of and learn more about working at an eye hospital.

I knew working in this fast-paced environment would enhance my proficiency and make every day a surprise

Daniel Chung

D: Initially I was torn, after having offers and interviews to work in all pre-reg placement settings. But ultimately, from speaking to many optoms before me, the support provided by a multiple as well as the number of patients you see every day made my choice for me. I knew this fast-paced environment would enhance my proficiency and make every day a surprise. You never know what’s going to walk through the door: it could be a routine check, or an emergency referral.

What is your next career step?

T: Now that I have spent a year in a hospital, I would like to continue. Hopefully the pre-reg year has given me a good foundation on which to build my skills in secondary care. I also look forward to participating in other clinics that I have only watched happen from the sidelines but not been involved in myself, including the Macular Treatment Centre and Cornea, among others.

S: I thoroughly enjoy working in a busy multiple, driven by friendly customers, and for that reason I’d like to stay on in a multiple setting. I’d also like to complete a further qualification and perhaps work in an hospital environment.

D: I strive to expand into other work settings. I hope to complete a professional certificate in paediatrics, glaucoma/medical retina, and eventually independent prescribing. By working in a hospital, I can expose myself to these conditions further. I can then take this knowledge into community practice to aid in shared care, and feel more confident on when to refer and when to manage. 

Has the pre-reg year met your expectations? 

D: I knew it was going to be a very hard year. However, the support of my colleagues and friends made it easier as you can relate to each other. The level of knowledge I’ve acquired along the way has massively helped me in becoming more independent and confident.

T: I think that the pre-reg year has exceeded my expectations. I was not expecting the sheer variability of my working week. No two days looked the same. I have surprised myself with my ability to deal with certain complexities that come with pathological eyes. The team of staff who I have had the privilege to work under and learn from have been extremely friendly and supportive every step of the way.

Due to COVID-19, there was disruption to your experience this year. How have your plans changed?

T: It has affected my plans as by now I would have hopefully passed my Stage 2 and just passed my OSCEs. This would have meant I would now be in the midst of applying for jobs. The job-hunting has been pushed back for some months. However, this has given me more time for learning and preparation so I will hopefully feel ready for whenever that day comes.

After a long time waiting to progress on the scheme, I cannot wait to qualify and start expanding my knowledge

Daniel Chung

S: There was a lot of uncertainty with assessments and OSCEs, and this disrupted my plans. I will take the next few months as they come, in the hope that things return back to normal soon. I hope to make the next OSCEs, so until then I will continue to prepare for them.

D: Inevitably my plans have been affected, but they’re simply pushed back. My aim was for July OSCEs, and then I’d look at my professional certificates and MECs. Things are unknown with COVID-19, so there’s no point in beating yourself up over what could’ve happened. I just focus on what’s to come. 

What have the unexpected events of this year taught you for the long-term? 

T: I have learnt to take each day as it comes and to really live in the present. Before COVID-19, working Monday to Friday, it could be hard finding the enjoyment in the work when you’ve had a stressful or mundane day or week. Now that I have had time away, I have been able to use my time for things I wouldn’t have done in the past and I have been able to appreciate the little things. I hope what I have learned from this experience for the long-term is to never let a day go to waste, and to really treat those 24 hours as an opportunity.

It is not the pre-reg year, but the pre-reg period - even without the pandemic, everyone works at different paces

Tamara Hasan

D: When setting goals, I have learnt not to worry if I don’t achieve them. Make use of any time you have, and use it efficiently. Keep in touch with those around you. You need a break, but also support. You’re never alone in this journey.

Is there anything that you wish you knew before your pre-reg that you know now?

T: I wish I knew what was to come halfway through my pre-reg so that I wouldn’t panic about getting to July OSCEs on time. What this has made me realise is it is not the ‘pre-reg year’ but the ‘pre-reg period’ and even without the pandemic, everyone works at different paces. The pressure to get through competencies and numbers made me stress more and not enjoy it as I ought to have done. It really doesn’t matter whether I qualify in July or September or even beyond, as it is not a reflection of my ability or worth as an optometrist. I know now to just try my best and allow myself to miss the mark or fail sometimes.

Tamara Hasan
Tamara Hasan

D: Fortunately, I was well informed by others before pre-reg and had an idea of what to expect. I found that most things you simply learn along the way, which is fantastic. I would say keeping on top of things. This is a consistent component in pre-reg advice, and though you may think you’re prepared for it, when you’re working, commuting and caring for yourself, it can be difficult to get into a routine. This is only something I got the hang of after working and studying for a while.

It really doesn’t matter whether I qualify in July or September or even beyond, as it is not a reflection of my ability or worth as an optometrist

Tamara Hasan

What are you most excited about for the next 12 months?

S: I’m most looking forward to qualifying and passing all my assessments. I hope to be able to test in busy clinics and build upon my knowledge and clinical skills as the year progresses.

D: After a long time waiting to progress on the scheme, I cannot wait to qualify and start expanding my knowledge. I’m currently very interested in myopia control and really look forward to developments and participating in different treatment areas.

T: I am excited for what lies ahead and for the recovery of this national crisis, meaning that hopefully we start to see some normality return. But most of all, I am excited for that day, whenever it comes, when I can say I am a fully qualified optometrist. All this hard work and patience through these current times will have paid off.