“I was delighted to get a confirmed start date”
After months of disruption to his studies, newly-graduated optometrist Peter Grant tells OT how excited he is to begin his pre-reg placement
2020 has been an extraordinary year for us all. On Monday 16 March, I was in the primary care clinic at Cardiff University carrying out a sight test; the next day university was shut down, all lectures and clinics were cancelled, and I was clearing out my locker. Little did I know, that would be my final patient episode at university and my last eye examination for six months.
Throughout lockdown the university did an excellent job keeping all of us up to date with any developments regarding exams, graduation and pre-reg via webinars. They also organised revision webinars in the weeks leading up to exams for any last-minute questions and queries concerning the new format of the online assessments.
Thankfully, I passed all my exams under the strangest of circumstances and graduated, albeit virtually, with the class of 2020. I look forward to the real graduation in summer 2021, when we can celebrate properly.
I could never have imagined entering the working world in the midst of a global pandemic
My pre-reg was due to begin the first week in August, however, COVID-19 led to it being postponed by a month. There had been uncertainty as to whether enrolling on the pre-reg scheme would even be possible this year, so I was delighted to get a confirmed start date.
When considering where to do your pre-reg I think it is important to keep your options open and assess all possibilities, whether that be a multiple, independent or hospital placement. Having previously worked as an optical assistant in a large multiple, I was interested in experiencing an alternative working environment and therefore decided to seek a pre-reg position in the independent sector. After a successful interview way back in second year, I secured my pre-reg with an independent optician based in South Wales.
Organising my pre-reg before starting final year at university allowed me to concentrate on my studies and not worry about future employment. The practice group I will be working for, Julian Davies Opticians, is well established with several store locations in South Wales, one of which, St Mellons, I will be based at. I have found the staff very friendly and the practice owner has been particularly helpful during the uncertainty of lockdown. At the time of my interview, the practice had a pre-reg optometrist so I felt reassured that they would be familiar with the current scheme for registration and have the experience and resources to support me through the year.
Now that pre-reg is just around the corner, I am excited to get started. It has been nearly six months since I had any patient interaction, so I am looking forward to working with the public again, albeit under stranger circumstances. I could never have imagined entering the working world in the midst of a global pandemic. However, I am eager to put into practice the clinical skills and knowledge I have learnt from my time at university and improve and adapt these skills for today’s current climate.
I’m undertaking my pre-reg year at… Merthyr Optical Centre. Located in Merthyr Tydfil, it is part of a small group of independent optometry practices in the South Wales Valleys.
The process of finding a placement was… A little bit last minute. The original plan had been to complete my pre-registration training with the multiple practice where I had been working in the holidays from university. However, my circumstances with the practice changed and I decided to seek an alternative placement. Looking for a position so late in the year and amid a global pandemic was daunting at first, but thankfully, a few of my connections were able to help.
I chose this location because… The group has an excellent reputation owing to the excellent patient care and its involvement in shared care schemes. It also has a history of supporting pre-registration optometrists through training and also newly qualified optometrists with further qualifications. The practice itself is well equipped, with a diverse patient base and a supportive and highly experienced team, creating an excellent environment for a pre-registration optometrist.
Luke McRoy-Jones is a pre-reg optometrist at Merthyr Optical Centre in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.