“The finishing line is beginning to appear”
Pre-reg optometrist and AOP Councillor, Luke McRoy-Jones, on being signed off for Stage 1, preparing for Stage 2 and looking ahead to the OSCEs
After what has been a challenging year for pre-registration optometrists across the country, the finishing line is beginning to appear.
At the end of June, I reached an important milestone – I was signed off from Stage 1 after a successful Visit 4. Stage 1 of the Scheme had seen me carry out over 750 refractions, over 460 dispenses, and a number of contact lens episodes. Achieving all Stage 1 competencies is an important stepping-stone on the route to qualification as an optometrist.
Now that Stage 1 has been completed, I hope to receive my Stage 2 assessment dates shortly and, if successful, there may be the opportunity to attempt the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations in the autumn.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the way in which trainees have progressed through the Scheme this year, and likely into subsequent years. The GOC has extended the temporary handbook changes as a result.
One of the biggest changes I have encountered has been the provision of virtual assessment and the move to a virtual Hospital Eye Service (HES) placement, which I’ve been working through in recent months.
My work with the AOP is something I thoroughly enjoy as being in a representative position allows me to voice views from across the profession
While it’s been disappointing to not have the opportunity to spend time in my local hospital eye department and develop relationships with the consultants whom I refer to, the College has created an extensive set of online modules consisting of webinars, patient case scenarios and interactive sessions, which can be completed in a flexible manner.
I’ve found the modules really insightful and much of the content has been directly applicable to the competencies I’ve been revising for assessments, which has further enhanced my revision.
Luckily, just before COVID-19 restrictions were introduced last year, I was able to complete a hospital placement at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple as part of my undergraduate degree. I’ve been able to draw on this experience, alongside the virtual experience, to further my learning and development, and deepen my understanding of how community optometrists and hospital eye departments work together in the care of a patient.
Looking ahead to the following months, I anticipate that it will be filled with more revision and preparation for assessments. However, I’ve really enjoyed beginning to re-engage with my social life outside of work in recent weeks and months, with the easing of restrictions.
For me, the lockdowns were what made the first part of my pre-reg so challenging, as life felt very work and optometry-orientated. I feel that while progressing on the Scheme, it’s nice to have trips, hobbies and events to look forward to outside of work to be able to recharge my batteries.
In the coming months, I’m also looking forward to contributing to a number of AOP projects, policy positions and member services, as part of my role on the AOP Council and its policy committee, representing pre-reg optometrists across the UK.
My work with the AOP is something I thoroughly enjoy as being in a representative position allows me to voice views from across the profession.
With the finishing line in sight, I’m beginning to ask myself the question: ‘What’s next professionally?'
I first joined the AOP Council and its policy committee in 2019. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I also chaired its student committee, overseeing and contributing to the Association’s extensive work to support its student and pre-reg members during what has been an incredibly challenging time for those undertaking education, as well as those involved in the delivery of education.
I’m proud of the work that’s been achieved, and I look forward to continuing to work with the AOP at a critical time for all in the profession.
Of course, the next few months will be vital as we continue to assess the impact of the pandemic on the Scheme in terms of employment and enrolment.
Last month, I attended my first meeting of the new AOP Council year, which gathered Councillors old and new. I believe we will form a dynamic and passionate Council for the year ahead.
The end of the beginning
With the finishing line now in sight, I’m beginning to ask myself the question: ‘What’s next professionally?’. As someone who enjoys learning and developing, the thought of sitting still after qualifying doesn’t appeal to me, and with the direction in which the profession is heading, with enhanced community services and the expansion of an optometrist’s role, I feel it is pivotal to upskill and engage with development opportunities so you can offer the best care to your patients and community. Therefore, I’m confident that my undergraduate degree and the Scheme are just the start of my training as an optometrist as I enter a changing and exciting profession with so much opportunity.
I would tell my early pre-reg self to… not be too worried about not knowing everything just yet; it will come with time. Nobody expects you to be a perfectly polished optometrist when you first start your pre-reg. Some days will be great and you’ll feel like you’ve made loads of progress, other days won’t be so good – but that means you’re learning, and the next time you’re faced with a challenge, you’ll know what to do.
The most important thing I’ve learnt so far in my pre-reg is… ask for help and don’t be afraid to do so. Learning is such an important part of the pre-reg year, and if you don’t ask for help when you need it, you’ll never learn.
Emily Mather is a pre-registration optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.