“I have definitely chosen the right path”
Pre-reg optometrist, Elly Adams, shares her journey in optometry so far, and how growing up with chronic anterior uveitis has given her the ability to put herself in her patients’ position
13 January 2022
When did you first become aware of the profession?I always knew from a young age that I wanted to do something in the medical field and be able to help others. Growing up with a sight-threatening eye disease, chronic anterior uveitis, I was around eye hospitals most of my childhood. Therefore, when I came across optometry whilst doing my A-Levels and looking at university degree options, I instantly knew that was something I could see myself doing.
What placements or experiences have you had in optometry, and what have you learned from them?
What’s next for you? What are your longer-term career goals?I am excited to begin my journey in a career where I can use empathy, knowledge, and the ability to put myself in my patients’ shoes. I have definitely chosen the right path and will continue in the optics world. I hope to make a difference as I gain more experience and help others with their eye health.
I am excited to begin my journey in a career where I can use empathy, knowledge, and the ability to put myself in my patients’ shoes
What were your expectations of the pre-reg year and how did you prepare?If I am honest, I did not expect the pre-reg year to be as challenging as it has been so far, and after feeling largely incompetent after my Visit 1, I quickly realised what was ahead and expected of me, and picked up my game.
The way I prepared was mainly through organisation, for example, reading through all of the competencies in Stage 1 in advance so that I could look out for those during a day of testing. I also maintained revision throughout and made a new folder for each visit so that I knew exactly what competencies would be covered and the associated notes I needed to learn alongside.
What reflections can you make of your pre-reg year? What advice would you offer to other students?
I am hopefully nearly at the end of my pre-reg year now, and on reflection I can say it was probably the hardest year of my life so far. However, I have gained so much experience and competence from it and feel like a better optometrist – my confidence has increased immensely from when I left university.
My advice to other students would be to use every day as a way to learn and gain experience, you have your supervisor there to help you if needed and give you a second opinion so don’t be afraid to dive in head-first and get testing.
I want other optometrists and optometry students to remember the importance of having empathy, care and kindness
A personal experience of chronic anterior uveitis
Could you tell us more about your passion for increasing awareness around uveitis, and the importance of regular eye tests?I was diagnosed with chronic anterior uveitis when I was 10 years old and I have battled with the chronic disease since. I almost lost sight in my right eye after an acute glaucoma attack, and now currently remain aphakic after an emergency cataract operation.
If I hadn’t attended an eye test the day I was diagnosed with uveitis, and the optometrist hadn’t used her clinical decision making to send me through emergency referral to the eye hospital, I may have lost sight in my right eye.
This disease has taught me how important regular eye tests are, as they not only manage your spectacle prescription but also check the health of the eyes. Other conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can sometimes be spotted in an eye test if uncontrolled and the patient may be totally unaware.
As someone who has had experience of chronic anterior uveitis and is now in the optometry profession, is there anything that you would want other optometrists to know?
An important clinical aspect I have learnt through having uveitis is that it does not always present with the classic signs of a red eye, as when I was diagnosed I had a white eye, with a droopy upper eyelid and cells and flare in the anterior chamber. Whenever I have had an ‘attack’ since, where inflammation has increased, I have never presented with a red eye.
In a different light, I also want other optometrists and optometry students to remember the importance of having empathy, care and kindness. It makes such a difference to how your patient will feel coming away from that eye test.
Has COVID-19 had an impact on your journey into optometry? If so, how, and how have you adapted?
When we went into the first lockdown I was just starting my final exams in third year of university, and then had to sit the exams at my university home. This was an immediate adaptation I had to make but overcame and managed to finish my degree and begin my pre-registration with Specsavers.
Once I began working full-time there were only a few short periods where our store was actually quiet, but most of the time I was busy each day, gaining lots of experience through performing eye examinations and contact lens assessments. The hardest adaptation at work due to COVID-19 was the use of personal protective equipment, for example, I still find the steaming up of my Volk lens difficult, but at least I've become an excellent cleaner.