“I’ve realised that this is definitely something I would consider in the future”
Optometry student, Isabelle Horrocks, told OT about her insight into domiciliary optometry from a shadowing day
15 August 2022
Meet the student
Name: Isabelle Horrocks
University: University of the West of England
Year of study: Second-year student entering third year
Why I want to become an optometrist: I really like the science behind it and being able to use all the different equipment. But the main thing for me is people. I love chatting to people, meeting new people, and with optometry, you have a real chance to make a huge difference to their lives.
For our clinical skills module we have a placement each year, and our module leader had set up a date to visit the OutsideClinic headquarters in Swindon, to see what domiciliary is about. I knew of domiciliary, but you don’t really hear much about it as a student. It’s got a reputation as kind of mysterious. On the visit to Swindon, we had a look at all the equipment they use and had a Skype call where we got to see a live sight test. They were really enthusiastic. When the email came with the opportunity to shadow a domiciliary optometrist for the day with OutsideClinic, I replied straight away.
The optometrist picked me up and he showed me his normal working day. We were around the Bath area and visited different houses, seeing different people and setting up sight tests and dispensing for the people who needed glasses.
The optometrist was very knowledgeable and I got to see how everything works in a domiciliary setting. It was nice to see in action. In the car, during the journeys between houses, we discussed the patient we just visited, the possible management options, and how the management in a domiciliary setting can be slightly different to in a High Street practice.
An open mind to new environmentsI went in with an open mind because I didn’t really know much about domiciliary or anybody who is in the field. I had a brief idea from the headquarters visit, when they told us what OutsideClinic was all about and we’d seen the sight test. But until you actually shadow someone, you don’t get a full grasp of it.
I was surprised at how often we were able to help people. I suppose when you think of domiciliary, you expect that if the patients can’t get into a High Street, there might not be too much they can do to help. But actually, you could make quite a big difference. You’re there in a natural setting and can see exactly what they need glasses for and what they need help with. You could tell the difference from holding the lenses up in front of their eyes. The patients had the same reaction we get in a High Street practice when someone needs new glasses: “Wow.”
The time you spend with the patient is much longer than if you’re in a standard High Street setting, and it was nice that you followed through because in some stores, if you’re really busy, you tend to hand the dispense over to somebody else. Whereas the domiciliary optometrist did the dispenses for everybody who needed glasses. It was interesting to have that fully-rounded care package.
I hadn’t really considered how wide a field optometry is
I like the science side of optometry, and the technology they have is just unbelievable, like the fundus cameras, which are so portable, and the way you can set up a sight test from someone’s chair. I don’t think anybody we visited that day actually had to get out of their chair.
I really liked the record keeping system. It is so personalised and makes it easy to write really accurate notes. There are buttons for things that come up quite often, so the optometrist can click this and save some time. It allows them to talk and look at the patient more often, and write notes as they go along.
One thing I found challenging was that there are some people you can only help a certain amount. But you could still make a difference. Every environment we went into was different and as was every patient. For example, we had one patient who unfortunately had quite bad dementia. In this situation, the optometrist had to really adapt the sight test and think on his feet. You do have to problem-solve in optometry, but I suspect you have to think on your feet a lot more in domiciliary than you would normally.
I hadn’t really considered how wide a field optometry is. I knew about domiciliary, but I wasn’t really considering it for the future. I just thought, “Oh, that’s a very niche part of optometry.” But actually, after going on the placement days, I’ve realised that this is definitely something I would consider in the future. Before this placement, I probably would not have even considered it.
It was really interesting to see a different side of optometry, that you just wouldn’t normally see. Having learned a bit more about domiciliary, I would recommend it to other people, at least to have a placement day to see what it’s about. I don’t think people should just strike it off straight away.
I would tell other students…
The setting, with Simon Raw, super optometrist and university lead at OutsideClinicPlacement: OutsideClinic
Location: Across the UK.
How many placements or shadowing opportunities do you offer per year and for what duration?We will always look to accommodate any second or third year student who wishes to do a placement with us, though the number of placements we’re able to offer in any given area is dependent on how many optometrists we have in the vicinity and how far students are prepared to travel. To date, we’ve offered one-day placements, but we’re happy to consider longer placements depending on student requirements.
Why does the OutsideClinic take on student optometrists?Our optometrists, many of whom have worked on the High Street, tell us that working in domiciliary is more rewarding than anything they’ve ever done. We believe that by offering students the opportunity to experience different settings beyond the traditional High Street, we are helping to enhance their skills and knowledge, and spotlight a career where they can genuinely put all of their skills and competencies to good use to make a real difference to the lives of those people who are unable to get to the High Street unaided.
Why is it particularly important to engage students in these settings?
Domiciliary optometry is a vital service and it’s now the fastest growing area in optometry. Yet, there is still a lack of awareness amongst students about the sector. Through placements, as well as the in-person and online university lectures we run, we’re able to show them what domiciliary optometry involves, and highlight the incredible rewards and benefits it offers.
Placement opportunities are offered across the UK, with second and third year students able to spend a day, or potentially longer, shadowing a domiciliary optometrist as they deliver eye care in patient’s homes.
University students, tutors and placement coordinators can learn more by contacting the OutsideClinic university lead, Simon Raw.