What I have learned

“It’s a learning process for both of us”

Newly-qualified optometrist, Chloe Fisk, and her pre-reg supervisor, Aashika Patel, reflect on what they have learnt from each other


Aashika Patel, pre-reg supervisor and optometrist at Hakim Group independent practice, James Bryan Optometrists, in Chelmsford

How long have you been a pre-reg supervisor?

Chloe was the first pre-reg that I supervised and I began her supervision when I joined the practice in April 2021. She had started her placement in February, so she was a couple of months in, and still quite new.

How did you find coming into the relationship when Chloe had already started her pre-reg placement, rather than it being right at the beginning?

Chloe is my first pre-reg, so it was all brand new. Our director had set me up to know what to expect. It was nice in a way, because Chloe had already settled into her pre-reg scheme and was aware of what she was doing. There wasn’t much hand-holding at that stage, because she had already got used to a lot of things.

At the same time, I missed out on the beginning phase of her pre-reg, which would have been nice to experience. I think I would have seen an even bigger growth from the beginning of her pre-reg placement to what she has achieved now.

What level of growth did you see throughout your time supervising Chloe?

I saw a massive level of growth. Chloe had always been very academic as a pre-reg and very book-smart, but being in a practical situation pushes you out of your comfort zone. I think Chloe was much quieter and a bit more apprehensive when I first met her. The more she was seeing patients, the more confident she became. Through receiving good feedback from her patients, as well as from us, she started to increase her confidence. I think the biggest growth I’ve seen is a change in her personality, and that reflecting upon her practical skills. That’s been wonderful.

Has being a pre-reg supervisor helped your own clinical practice? If so, how?

Definitely. It helped me refresh my knowledge a little bit. I love training and education. I’m not the best at taking exams, but I love learning. It’s really nice to refresh my knowledge on things, and I think it helped for Chloe to have a fairly young supervisor, because I had only recently gone through objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) and assessments myself. I could give her some knowledge on my experience and get her ready for it, but even then, I realised how much I’d forgotten. So, it was really nice to refresh that knowledge and sharpen up my skills again. It was a learning process for both of us.

Do you have any tips for those who might want to become pre-reg supervisors on mentoring or advising a pre-reg?

It’s good to be patient. It’s easy to forget how it felt to be in that year or year and a half. Understand that they’re not going to be at that level you expect them to be just yet: it’s going to take time and it’s going to take hard work and perseverance. Be understanding if they make mistakes or don’t quite understand what you’re asking of them. Patience is really important, as is having regular catch-ups and making sure your pre-reg feels comfortable with the way things are going.

Make sure they always feel comfortable to ask questions. If you’re closed off as a supervisor, they might not ask you the questions that are really important, or they might go to the wrong people for advice or go the wrong sources to answer their questions. That’s really important in your pre-reg and supervisory relationship.

Did you learn anything from Chloe in the process of guiding her through the pre-reg?

I was learning the changes to the Scheme for Registration, because I didn't know that a lot of it had gone online during COVID-19, so that was new for me. And then there were a few different areas and certain competencies that were new to me – that I had forgotten totally, or I didn’t know.

Chloe had a different teaching background to me. She went to Cardiff University, whereas I went to City, University of London, so we realised there were quite a few differences in the teaching. So, it sometimes involved picking up new methods of certain grading, of certain research that she had found. It was it was very educational for me as well.

Chloe Fisk, newly-qualified optometrist at Hakim Group independent practice, James Bryan Optometrists, in Chelmsford

How did your supervisor help you in interactions with patients as a pre-reg?

The first thing I did was sit in with Aashika for some of her clinics. So, a whole variety of appointments: sight tests, contact lenses, and even a few emergency ones. That helped me gage both a specific kind of language spoken as well as body language, that I hadn’t been exposed to at university. For example, handovers and recommendations was something I’d never seen before. We’d always been purely clinical. I did that with the other supervisors as well, so I could pick and choose the language that I liked and that came naturally for me and I was able to form my own routine.

The most important thing I’ve learned is how much I can do for my patients – all the different options I have


Did you face any challenging moments with patients, and did Aashika help you through those?

Something that was quite daunting to me was the idea of multifocal contact lenses. Again, that’s something I’d never been exposed to before, and is generally quite new technology. Aashika is a big contact lens advocate, especially for multifocals. She made a really nice Word document, with all the steps, and we ran through that practise on a few of our staff members. Then, if I had any of those fittings booked in my clinic, we discussed an action plan to start the day. That’s now led to quite a few nice multifocal fittings and some very happy patients.

What is the most important thing you learned from her?

The most important thing I’ve learned is how much I can do for my patients. I’ve also realised all the different options I have, so for pressure recordings, for example, using an alternative method, like the iCare Tonometer. Also realising that for some patients, there are points where you can’t physically do much more for them, and you might need a second opinion from the hospital. There’s only so much you can do within your level of expertise.

Now that you are qualified, do you have any advice for current or future pre-regs on building a good relationship with their supervisor?

I think the key thing is honesty – being able to accept when you need a second opinion and you need some help. Also, that if you’re quite confident with something you can say, “I’ve learned this and I’m really happy with it,” and gain that self-approval too. The other thing is the regular check-ins, as Aashika said. It’s important for your progress and how you’re getting along in the Scheme.