Georgia’s journey: from optical assistant to optometry student
Optometry student, Georgia Richardson, shares with OT what inspired her to enter into optics and the people that encouraged and supported her along the way
27 January 2021
Who is your inspiration and can you tell us more about them?I cannot assign my inspirational influences to one specific person, so I have chosen to mention a few people. My biggest inspirations are my parents. Another inspiration is my store manager, James Waites, at Specsavers in Hull. They all have inspired me in my personal and professional life and have contributed towards me getting to where I am currently. These people are my inspiration as I hope to gain some of the qualities and attributes that make them successful, and ultimately, good, hardworking people.
Why did you decide to study optometry?Through part time employment at a local Specsavers, at the beginning of studying my A-levels, I began my journey in optometry. Working with patients and optometrists daily ignited a developing passion for the optics industry. When I worked as an optical assistant I learnt various skills, but one of the things I remember is discovering the vast amount of things that can be learnt about a person's health from an eye examination.
My mum suffered with a brain tumour when I was growing up. It is a time in my life I vividly remember. It was sprung upon us, without warning. Little did I know before beginning my journey in optics, that brain conditions such brain tumours are identifiable in an eye examination. I believe people are still greatly unaware of the importance of a sight test – as part of a screening on your health, as well as whether you need to be wearing glasses to aid your vision.
This is one of the reasons I wanted to study optometry. I want to encourage as many people as possible to attend a sight test regularly. I want to encourage people to bring their children for regular examinations as soon as they can communicate with an optometrist. This is so important; it can reveal such a great deal and potentially save someone’s life.
I want to encourage people to bring their children for regular examinations as soon as they can communicate with an optometrist. This is so important; it can reveal such a great deal and potentially save someone’s life
Did they play a part in your decision to study optometry?
My parents have always made sure that I prioritise education and achieve to the best of my ability, always ensuring I stay motivated – but to pursue a career in something that I enjoy, value and that makes life fulfilling.
James also played a huge part in my decision to study optometry. He guided me through the vast opportunities within optometry, opening my eyes to the broad spectrum for development. He showed me that I could use a combination of my educational achievements and experience working as an optical assistant. This advice helped influence my decision to go to university and pursue a career in this field.
Can you remember when you first met James and what your first impressions were?
Not necessarily upon first meeting, but there have been times over the duration of knowing these people that have remained in my memory. I quickly became good friends with my manager, James. It’s a friendship I value greatly and one that I know has given me great opportunities and guidance in my life so far. This friendship has provided me with grounding and realism which I really appreciate looking back. James is someone who works with unceasing effort and conscientiousness with every task he is faced with.
What attributes do you like most about them?
In my parents I admire their determination and adaptability. When circumstances have changed intermittently, they have shown courage and resilience. My parents have faced various struggles, which have impacted the things I value and taught me to ultimately be a good person. My parents bring humour to a difficult situation wherever they can and continue to look on the bright side – which can be very difficult.
My manager James always strives for success; even when faced with ambiguous circumstances he ceases to give up. I like that he’s thankful and appreciative of hard work – which I think is really important to make this apparent as an employer to an employee.
What advice have they given you about your studies or future career?
My parents have always told me I can achieve anything that I put my mind to. My mum has taught me to never rely on another person for anything in life, and the importance of being successful as an individual. Over the years this has instilled the importance of earning a successful career as an independent woman and this is one of my firm beliefs and values as an individual.
What words of advice would you give other optometry students?
I had a lot of stress throughout my sixth form studies, especially surrounding what I wanted to pursue as a career. I felt people around me were deciding their university courses easily and they had it all figured out – when I didn’t find it such a breeze. Some advice I would offer to other optometry students would be to continue to approach things one thing at a time, like I did. It’s okay to go at a different pace to those around you. Concentrate on your own success, at your own pace and ignore the pace of others, as they are not on the same journey as you and things happen to people at different times in life for a reason.
How have you managed your studies or work since the pandemic started?I currently go into university once every week for my compulsory practical session. These are carried out in full personal protective equipment, which in itself poses more difficulty when learning difficult techniques – however it is necessary for the safety of student and supervisors present.
At first it was a struggle working from home. Prior to COVID-19 I could not motivate myself to work from home and had to go the library to provide the right working environment for me. This obviously hasn’t been possible in lockdown, however I have adapted well to the alternative routine - after all I have had a lot of practice now.
How has your chosen inspirational person been affected by the pandemic?My mum works as a police community support officer. She’s continued working throughout the entire pandemic, enforcing lockdown rules and looking after the people in the community. She has also managed to adapt, as always, to a new daunting new situation.
James, and the practice he works in, have adapted their ways of working significantly in order to see patients and care for their visual needs. The introduction of alternative ways of performing procedures that were once second nature to us now involve much more preparation and thought. It’s been necessary for the team to work longer, and different hours to compensate for changes that have been made. However, this has been successful as we were able to see patients and remain open to the public, for emergency appointments during lockdown, and then routine appointments. This has meant pressure has been taken off the NHS caring for emergency appointments for eyes, which has been crucial at this time.