“I love the variety”
Optometrist Jack Thompson, who qualified in 2021, told OT about his journey so far, and what led him into domiciliary
30 June 2023
How did you first become aware of the profession?I’ve been wearing glasses since I was around two years old. My parents noticed a turn in my eye which was a fully accommodative left esotropia (to be specific). So optometry has always been important to me.
Who influenced or inspired the decision to go into optometry?I’ve worn monthly contact lenses since I was 11 years old so I’ve been going for regular sight tests and contact lens checks and have always found it interesting. I was particularly impressed by all the technology optometrists and contact lens opticians use. Jeanette Brook (now-retired contact lens optician at Specsavers Lincoln) was passionate about the profession, which inspired me too.
What were the main reasons you wanted to become an optometrist?
Are you an early career optometrist?
What have you learned from your experience of optometry so far?I have learned to be confident in communicating to patients of all ages and walks of life, and to be continuously adaptive depending on the patient I see. I always learn based on the most up to date research, and then communicate that to my patients, and I pride myself on being able to explain eye conditions clearly and thoroughly to my patients when perhaps they were unsure in the past.
What is your favourite aspect of optometry so far?Being able to improve my patient’s quality of life. For instance, I see patients who want to read a book and haven’t for months or years. My favourite aspect is providing the best prescription for them so they can enjoy life again.
What are your professional goals?I recently completed my professional qualification in medical retina at Cardiff University. I enjoyed further improving my knowledge to benefit my patients. Therefore, I hope to start the independent prescribing (IP) course in the near future and perhaps other courses after that.
I recently started a new job as a domiciliary optometrist after working at Specsavers as a resident. I’m enjoying developing my skills in that field. It’s definitely challenging but very rewarding.
I have learned to be confident in communicating to patients of all ages and walks of life, and to be continuously adaptive depending on the patient I see
What reflections can you make of your pre-reg year, and what advice would you offer to other students?My pre-reg ‘year’ was very challenging, due to the fact that I started in July 2019 and completed it in February 2021 – I was greatly delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On reflection, I would tell myself not to worry too much about being the ‘perfect’ optometrist, but to be a compliant one. I was proud of myself in completing Stage 1 in four visits, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world to need more visits than that.
My advice for pre-reg would be to be as prepared and organised as possible. I had folders organised for each competency which was very helpful in checking how I was doing. It was also helpful for my visits. The more organised you are, the more competencies you can get through.
What were the main challenges of the OSCEs?Due to COVID-19, I went down to a close to abandoned central London for my OSCEs. I was in the first small group that did the OSCEs post-COVID-19. The main challenge was to get an idea of what was expected and required.
My biggest tip in preparing for OSCEs is to do mock OSCEs. I did the Optom Academy mock OSCEs in Birmingham, which I’d highly recommend. I passed my OSCEs first-time and that definitely helped me.
Domiciliary tech, getting involved, and keeping organised
Now that you have recently qualified, how does working in practice live up to your expectations? What has surprised or challenged you?
Similarly, I started my new job in April as a domiciliary optometrist with OutsideClinic. With this job, I provide the complete sight test for the patient from pre-testing, the eye examination, to the dispense. I started at around two hours to do all of that, but it quickly got down to the target of one hour appointments. I love the variety.
What drew you to domiciliary in particular?After working in a testing room at Specsavers for almost four years, I fancied mixing it up. Now I work for OutsideClinic who solely provide home/care home visits for patients with poor mobility or privately. Instead of seeing 18 to 20 patients a day, I see six or seven patients a day. That doesn’t mean it is easier.
It’s a challenging job, but no day is the same. I saw a 100-year-old patient recently, and it was very rewarding to be able to improve his quality of life while being able to spend an hour of my day with him.
I love that my test room can be anywhere. Being able to drive around and see the countryside is a big improvement to a small, dark test room. The equipment OutsideClinic provide is astonishing. I have a portable fundus camera, iCare tonometer, printer, tablet test chart and so on. All that runs solely on battery power.
If you’re even slightly interested in domiciliary optometry, I would strongly recommend doing a shadow day to understand how thorough a sight test can be in patient’s own homes nowadays. It’s much better than getting them to struggle into a High Street practice.
I saw a 100-year-old patient recently, and it was very rewarding to be able to improve his quality of life while being able to spend an hour of my day with him
What helped you settle into university or the workplace?When at Aston University, I settled in by not being afraid to get involved in what the university had to offer. Fresher’s week and fresher’s fair was a big part of that for me. Doing well in your optometry degree is vital, but so is being able to relax and enjoy yourself. This then continues to pre-reg and the workplace. There’s always time to relax and compete in sport or activities if you are organised.
How do you approach balancing studying and work with socialising and making time for yourself?
When at university, a good balance of studying, socialising and relaxing is very important. To deal with that, I made sure to plan ahead and complete work way before the deadlines. This means, if a social event did come up, work and studying isn’t a thought.
With my work, I prep for the patients the night before and get it out of the way as soon as possible. I personally find it be a burden if it still needs to be done ‘at some point.’
Jack's top tips
What is your favourite piece of equipment?My portable fundus camera. A concern I had about domiciliary optometry was being able to monitor patient’s eye health including glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Having a portable fundus camera is perfect for that and takes really good pictures. It’s amazing that technology has advanced this far, to take fundus photos with a machine this size.
Do you have a top tip for student budgeting?Work during the summer at a practice. It’s great for the experience of seeing and understanding how an opticians works, which may help in exams, and it’s also great to earn some money to spend while at university. I used to work for three months every summer; it adds up.
What are your three must-haves for studying or exam prep?
- A four colour pen to make my notes easier to remember (visualise certain parts in certain colours)
- A silent room
- Lots of time to revise. I couldn’t revise everything the night before like some people do. A bit a day works best for me.