“Being able to apply the theory we learnt at university has been incredible”
Pre-reg optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, Akshay Shah, tells OT about starting the search for his placement as a first year student
I had been thinking about my pre-registration placement since the start of my optometry course at City, University of London. During induction week some alumni came to talk to us about preparing for our journey in optometry. They explained that while thinking about placements in our first year may seem sudden, the application deadlines come around much sooner than expected.
A helping handIt was during a meeting with my personal tutor, where I expressed my interest in hospital optometry, that I got some great advice: to try to gain some relevant experience to see if a hospital placement would be the right fit for me. I was fortunate to obtain a part-time role as an ophthalmic technician, supporting qualified optometrists and ophthalmologists in a variety of clinics, and learnt quickly that I really enjoyed this working environment.
My tutor also advised me that the majority of applications for hospital placements would open through the NHS jobs website, but at different times of the year, so I created alert notifications to keep on top of some of the locations I wanted to apply to.
Having grown up in London, my attachment to this diverse capital meant I could only hope to secure a place here too. Moorfields Eye Hospital was the perfect choice
I remember working on my applications for weeks and making use of the university careers department. The specialist advisers there supported me on how to complete applications effectively, writing a CV, and even the cover letters that were sometimes required. After being shortlisted for some interviews, I was able to get some one-to-one mock interview sessions booked in order to prepare.
Staying in London
While I was certain I wanted to undertake a hospital placement, I was open to the idea of moving anywhere across the country to do this. However, having grown up in London, my attachment to this diverse capital meant I could only hope to secure a place here too. Moorfields Eye Hospital was the perfect choice, combining both the type of placement that I wanted, with a commuting journey that would allow me to stay in my home city.
Moorfields was also one of the first hospitals to advertise a pre-registration placement for the 2022–23 year, with applications opening about a year in advance of the starting date, so I was determined to get a placement there and thankfully was successful.
While I was warned that the pre-registration period could be quite stressful, the first few weeks did seem overwhelming initially. Luckily, I had a good support system, including reassuring guidance from my new supervisors and other pre-reg students going through a similar experience, this all helped to quickly get me settled.
I have really been enjoying the variety of clinics and wide range of patients I see on a daily basis, and being able to apply the theory I learnt at university has been incredible. Having completed my first visit of Stage one, I am really looking forward to moving on to the next few visits in order to complete Stage one, while also pushing the boundaries of my skills to a new level.
I’m undertaking my pre-reg at... Bennett and Batty Opticians, a Hakim Group independent practice in Liverpool.
I chose this location... because of the amazing technology and forward-thinking approach of the practice. Paediatric optometry really interests me, so the access to a variety of myopia management options and close ties with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital encouraged me to choose this practice.
Neil Hilton, partner and lead optometrist at Bennett and Batty, has strong connections to the NHS and to private hospitals in the area, encouraging an even broader spectrum of patients to attend, further exposing me to more pathologies and patient cases.
The process of finding this placement was... very different from applying to a multiple as I contacted the practice directly. I called up enquiring about a position and was asked to send my CV. Later that day I received a call from one of the directors (my now supervisor) inviting me for an interview the following week.
Since then, I’ve worked as a dispensing assistant for the practice for a year and recently transitioned into my role as their pre-registration optometrist. I’m looking forward to seeing how the next year plays out.
Isha Saghir is a pre-reg optometrist at Bennett and Batty Opticians, a Hakim Group practice in Liverpool