STEPing into qualification

Optometrist and Johnson & Johnson Institute faculty member, Shivani Madhavji, discusses the benefits of STEP

Johnson & Johnson Institute

Optometrist, Shivani Madhavji, was a graduate on Johnson & Johnson Vision Care’s Success Through Education Programme (STEP).

Now a faculty member at the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Institute, she helps support newly-qualified optometrists as they navigate their way post-qualification. She talks to OT about what has influenced her career to date, as well as what shapes her future aspirations.

As a student of STEP yourself, what did you take away from the programme?

University moved at such a fast pace, and it felt that there was so much to get through in such a short period of time. Therefore, having the extra support that STEP offered was invaluable.

The extra resources and the depth that we got to explore topics in was a real advantage for my studies. The mock exams that you get to take part in through STEP helped me enormously – having the chance to practise, ask questions and get such detailed feedback from actual examiners was very helpful. This, in particular, gave me confidence when it came to the real examinations and enabled me to be in a better position to manage my nerves.

Furthermore, having the faculty network, many of whom are College of Optometrists examiners themselves, available to answer any questions was invaluable. 

Did STEP help you with any particular area of practice?

STEP played a large role in supporting and honing my contact lens fitting skills. During the undergraduate STEP course, we participated in a workshop on toric lens fitting, which was my first interaction with more complex fitting. This was very helpful and provided me with lots of tips on how to successfully fit certain patients more easily. I also felt that it gave me a head start compared to my peers. It made the idea of fitting patients, especially toric patients, less daunting and much easier once I was qualified. 

Through STEP I also learned about patient care, particularly when it came to contact lenses. All contact lenses have different properties, which may suit some patients more than others. As optometrists, it's vital to know about the patient’s lifestyle, what they do daily and the kind of environment they are in so that we can fit them with the right lens. STEP really taught me that engaging with the patient is vital when it comes to making the final decision in terms of appropriate lens choice. 

"Attending the institute was a lightbulb moment for me. The interactive aspect of the job, as well as teaching and supporting others, is what I really enjoy. STEP opened my eyes to how I could have that kind of interaction every day"

How important do you think networking is when building your career in optometry? 

Developing a network of colleagues in the industry is very important. Knowing people who are at various stages in their career, as well as working in different areas, means you have a great sounding board for your own career. People in this industry are generally keen to impart their wisdom on the next generation of optometrists, and I’d advise newly-qualified optometrists to make the most of this. 

I also believe that it is important to know optometrists from across the country. I find that we see such different conditions depending on where you are based in the country, and it is interesting to learn from each other’s unique knowledge. 

The field of optometry is widening; how do you think this affects newly-qualified optometrists?

Newly-qualified optometrists are a great source of help for all types of practices. Having just completed an array of examinations and assessments, they are well-equipped with knowledge of products and managing patients. If they can engage with staff, they can teach them to do an array of tasks, such as contact lens fitting, which can take the pressure off optometrists and help the flow of the clinic. In turn, this can give newly-qualified optometrists a sense of responsibility and allows them to learn through experience, which is important immediately after qualifying. 

The NHS eye departments are under a lot of pressure. Sharing the load with community optometrists redistributes this pressure. However, for us, as optometrists, it means that we have a wider remit and more responsibility than ever. Being able to help with patient eye care on a broader scale means that it’s an exciting time for newly-qualified optometrists.

Do you think there is currently enough support in place for newly-qualified optometrists? 

During the pre-registration period, students have a supervisor and the relationship between the pre-reg and their supervisor is really important. This should provide a level of support. However, delegates who are lucky enough to take part in STEP will be provided with an extra level of reassurance that they are not alone. 

Do you think taking part in STEP influenced your career path?

I think it helped because it exposed me to different areas of optometry, and made me realise how broad the field really is. Attending the institute was a lightbulb moment for me. The interactive aspect of the job, as well as teaching and supporting others, is what I really enjoy. STEP opened my eyes to how I could have that kind of interaction every day.

What are your career aspirations for the future? 

From what I’ve learnt during my time in the industry, I think I want to continue down this path to become a pre-registration supervisor, or perhaps a College assessor. As a faculty member, I love the interaction that I have with students, helping other people and being engaged in my work. You never know where your career will take you, but for the moment, continuing to teach is where I see my future. 

For more information about STEP visit the Johnson & Johnson Vision Care website