“I can be pretty proud of where I am”
Pre-reg optometrist Peter Grant on how problem solving in practice can have an important impact on patients’ wider health
It is hard to believe that I am six months into practising as a pre-registration optometrist. University seems like a long time ago, and I feel I have learnt and developed so much since then.
Typically, six months in, I would expect to be further along in the Scheme for Registration – but obviously the current circumstances have delayed things. However, I am thoroughly enjoying being in the testing room with patients, day in and day out, doing the job that I have worked towards since A-levels. The role comes with its ups and downs and there have been many challenges along the way, and plenty more to come, but when I take a step back I can be pretty proud of where I am.
I am discovering more and more how essential optometry is as a healthcare service, and what a privilege it is to be a part of that. This profession is so much more than refracting and prescribing spectacles; it involves a lot of problem solving and decision making that directly impacts patients’ well-being. For example, I examined a patient who was complaining of blurry vision, found to be caused by bilateral posterior subcapsular cataract, who upon referral was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I also referred a patient for a bitemporal quadrantanopia field defect, who turned out to have had a mini-stroke. These cases highlight the importance of our role in detecting conditions away from the eye.
I really value being part of the patient’s entire journey through the practice
I am well on my way to achieving my patient encounter totals, having managed to reduce my testing time since I wrote my last article. It takes me between 35 to 60 minutes to do a sight test depending on the complexity of the patient and the additional tests required. As I work in an independent, I carry out all additional tests, as well as my own visual field tests and dispenses. I really value being part of the patient’s entire journey through the practice and patients tend to appreciate this too. I am gradually becoming more confident managing patients, but I really value the few minutes I get with my supervisor at the end of each eye examination to discuss any problems or findings.
With the recent unveiling of the pathway to easing of lockdown restrictions, I am looking forward to having a more varied work-life balance over the next few months. In the current situation it can feel like all I do is ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’, and I know this is the case for everyone. Being able to go for walks with one other person has been great, but I am eager to make the most of time away from the testing room as I believe it is so important to have a balanced lifestyle.
In terms of the Scheme for Registration, I have my Visit 2 in April. The weeks leading up to it will involve preparing for the visit by finding the appropriate patient episodes for each competency and organising my evidence so that it is ready to be shared with my assessor. I hope to successfully pass this assessment and continue my progression through the scheme.
The biggest learning curve has been… testing children. At university, you get fairly limited experience in paediatric optometry. Combined with the gap in clinical experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was apprehensive about testing children initially. However, developing experience and some tips from my supervisors has ensured I have become more confident and more efficient in this area.
My top priority for the next few months is… to continue to progress through the Scheme by gaining the appropriate clinical experience and developing my knowledge and skills as a clinician. I will also need to complete the virtual Hospital Eye Service (HES) experience in the coming months, and I’ve recently started the theoretical learning for Eye Health Examinations Wales (EHEW) accreditation.
When I'm qualified, I want to... upskill myself and continue my learning and development as an optometrist. I feel this is essential with the direction in which the profession is moving, so that we can continue providing the best care for our patients in the community and relieve strain on the NHS. Looking ahead, I’d like to complete some of the College of Optometrists’ professional certificates and potentially a master’s degree before starting independent prescribing.
Luke McRoy-Jones is a pre-reg optometrist at Merthyr Optical Centre in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.