“I have a real passion for making a difference to people’s lives”
Samit Dayal, final year optometry student at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, on giving back, drawing inspiration from family, and preparing for pre-registration
13 November 2020
When did you first become aware of the profession?I was always fascinated by the instruments used during my eye test as a child. I used to think that the direct ophthalmoscope was a miniature camera that made a flicking sound as the optometrist was using the dioptre dial. I was really interested as to how these instruments could help determine the health of my eyes as well as my prescription, which led me to want to find out more.
I’ve always been interested in health and biological sciences. Optometrists are able to work in a clinical setting providing help to others, something which I find very gratifying. I have a real passion for making a difference to people’s lives and I believe that sight is something that a lot of people take for granted. I felt that possessing the knowledge and skills to help improve a patient’s vision would be rewarding for me.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?
Who influenced or inspired your decision to go into optometry?My passion to work with patients played a big role in influencing my decision to go into optometry. My parents have always been a big inspiration to me, encouraging me to help others and give back to the community and this is something that optometry allows me to do. Having several relatives with eye conditions such as glaucoma also really intrigued me and I wanted to find out more and be able to help them, as well as people in a similar situation. My sister is also an optometrist and always provides me with advice when I need it, so she helped me make the decision to go into optometry.
Hopefully one day, I would like to have my own practice and potentially run it with my sister
What are your career goals?I want to continue working hard to achieve first-class honours at university and go on to successfully complete my pre-registration year. I also want to work towards additional qualifications to further my knowledge and skills.
Hopefully one day, I would like to have my own practice and potentially run it with my sister.
What were the main challenges of the university course before COVID-19, and what challenges has the outbreak added?One of the main challenges of the course, especially in the second year, was to stay on top of all the work. With a lot of theoretical knowledge to learn as well as practical skills to improve, it was really important to stay organised. My second year really highlighted the importance of using my time wisely and taking advantage of any extra sessions to improve my skills. My lecturers were excellent at arranging extra sessions for my cohort to practice and further improve.
I think one of the biggest challenges at the moment will be to brush up on my practical skills as the last time I was able to practise was in March.
I know that the pre-reg year will be challenging but I am definitely looking forward to putting all my knowledge and skills learnt at university to use during the year
What placements have you carried out, and what have you learned from them?My university has been great at providing us with placement periods for us to go and work in different practices. I have completed placements in both independent and multiple stores, which has given me an insight into how different practices are run and the challenges that lie ahead for a student optometrist.
Each placement is based around a specific aspect of optometry such as ‘shop floor’ tasks (pre-screening, dispensing or admin), clinical skills (shadowing an optometrist during eye examinations and performing some techniques under the optometrist’s supervision), and contact lenses (contact lens appointments, contact lens teaches).
The placements have been an excellent opportunity to observe things happening in the ‘real world’ and put some of the skills learnt at university to use. It also allows contact time with real patients, which definitely improves my confidence and communication skills.
What are your expectations of the pre-reg year and how did you prepare?The placement periods we’ve completed have given me the opportunity to talk to pre-reg students in those practices, giving me an insight into the challenges that lie ahead for a student optometrist. I know that the pre-reg year will be challenging but I am definitely looking forward to putting all my knowledge and skills learnt at university to use during the year. Advice from my sister always helps and she always highlights the importance of staying organised throughout the year.
What’s next for you?I am now in my final year and I have been really looking forward to going back after this long break. I am excited for all the practical aspects where I will be able to further improve my clinical skills and am also excited to start working in a ‘real-patient’ based clinic at university.
I am hoping to secure a pre-registration offer very soon following a few days working at my linked store.
Studying in lockdown
How has the coronavirus outbreak impacted your course and how have you had to adapt?When my university closed in March due to COVID-19, I moved to home working. We had to finish off several lectures online, which took some getting used to. We also had several practical and theory exams to complete online, which took a lot of time to prepare for and it felt a bit strange completing the practical exams through a video call.
Has the coronavirus outbreak affected any plans regarding placements or experience over summer?I originally had a summer placement arranged with my linked pre-registration store. However, due to COVID-19, this was cancelled. I have been in contact with my store to arrange another time for me to visit and will be starting soon.
What have been some of the concerns students have had during this time? Do you have any tips to help students in maintaining their wellbeing during this time?I think the main concern a lot of students had was forgetting some of the practical techniques as it had been a while since we were able to practise.
In terms of wellbeing, my advice would be to stay in a routine and keep yourself busy. It’s always good to keep up to date with current affairs and stay in contact with your friends (even online).