“I love my job so much more now than I did working in practice”

The world of domiciliary optometry can be mysterious – and misunderstood – but infinitely rewarding, explains optometrist Simon Raw

people walking

At the age of 15, when I was exploring careers and work experience, I had no idea which path I wanted my life to take. My mum was heading out to the opticians, who happened to be one of her old school friends, when she commented that it was a possible career I could explore. I completed some work experience including at an independent and in a hospital clinic. I loved the gadgets and the job's caring nature, which offered more social hours than other medical roles.

Simon Raw graduation
Optometrist, Simon Raw, graduating from university
At 18, I left home to go to complete three happy years at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) – making lifelong friends and receiving my degree. A Boots pre-reg followed in the busy city centre store in Newcastle, where I worked in a fabulous team and developed the practical skills learned at uni. I took a career break to travel the world and worked for six months in Christchurch, New Zealand, for OPSM Opticians. On returning to the UK, I became a store manager and pre-reg supervisor with Boots. 

Inspiring suitable candidates

After three years at university and seven years in practice, I still had no idea what domiciliary optometry involved and only had stereotypes and myths in my mind. I imagined that all patients would have dementia, poor communication skills, poor personal hygiene and would not be suitable for a proper, complete eye examination. How wrong could I have been?

Fast-forward 13 years of full-time domiciliary work later, I have to say it was the best career move I ever made, and I love my role with OutsideClinic so much more now than I did working in practice. As an optometry student, I would have liked to have known all the possible career options earlier. Some fabulous optometrists out there would be perfect for this role, but they haven't given domiciliary a second thought.

To assist the universities in their career development, OutsideClinic asked me to deliver an online lecture to university students on the rewards and challenges of domiciliary work. Working closely with former OutsideClinic colleague, optometrist, Dr Rakhee Shah, a domiciliary lecture has already been built into the course at two institutions, with the rest keen to follow suit. With this, and my newly developed lecture for all optometry students, I hope we will now be able to dispel the myths and inspire suitable candidates on this fantastic career path.

The lesson consists of the legal and NHS requirements for domiciliary. We discuss the need for enhanced communication skills and flexibility in each patient's specific requirements. There includes a display of the different equipment that can be used and an explanation of the need for excellent record keeping. We highlight case records to show examples of what a domiciliary optometrist may encounter, and we have a few videos of how a domiciliary sight test may work. Then we try to give an unbiased view of the many positives and few negatives of this role. 

With an ever-ageing population and increasing life expectancy, we will need many more domiciliary optometrists to see everyone

COVID-19 has changed all our lives, and domiciliary is no different. Still, at OutsideClinic, we have adapted well and are often complemented by patients about how safe they feel with the changes we have made to our routine. With an ever-ageing population and increasing life expectancy, we will need many more domiciliary optometrists to see everyone. Hopefully, I can inspire some students to take up the role and enjoy it as much as I do.

About the author
Simon Raw is an optometrist for OutsideClinic