“She’d be so proud and happy to see where I am now”
Dispensing optician and newly qualified optometrist, Amy Oliphant, paid tribute to her “compassionate” and talented friend, Anita Farrer
01 February 2022
Who is your inspiration, and can you tell us more about them?Over the years I have worked with a lot of amazing people, but a major influence in my optical life has to be Anita Farrer. She was a friend and mentor throughout my journey, always there to offer support or to talk me down if I was getting a little overwhelmed, which happened more often than I care to say. Sadly, we lost this amazing woman nearly two years ago, but I know she’d be so proud and happy to see where I am now.
Can you remember when you first met Anita and what your first impressions were?When I started out in optics over 17 years ago, as a part-time trainee optical assistant at Boots, Anita was one of the first people I met. She was always so warm and friendly with her patients; it seemed nothing was too much trouble or beyond her abilities. Her focus was always on the patient; whether that was a simple repair or adjustment or a complex problem, she would make sure they knew she was there to help them with her complete attention and care. Her knowledge of the business and the practical aspects of the job was amazing, and I always knew if I needed anything she’d be there.
Why did you decide to study optometry?
I always wanted to try to emulate Anita’s approach, putting the patient first no matter what brought them to see me. Each and every person we see is important and deserves our time. I wanted to make sure I developed my own skill set to enable me to also give this level of service. Her support and advice inspired me to go down the path of additional training and further optical qualifications. The more I could understand, the better I could advise and guide others.
When things got hard, she’d tell me to dust myself off and try again, never give up. I’ve been very lucky in life to have a great support network around me, and Anita was always a big part of this
Did Anita play a part in your university experience studying optometry or shape any of your career choices?Even when we were not working together, she was one of the first people I would talk to about my plans and hopes for the future. When I decided I wanted to become a dispensing optician (DO) and then an optometrist, she was there to cheer me on. When things got hard, she’d tell me to dust myself off and try again, never give up. I’ve been very lucky in life to have a great support network around me, and Anita was always a big part of this.
What attributes did you most admire about her?Her compassion for people, and her passion for the job. She truly wanted those around her to excel in anything they set their minds to. She was incredibly modest about her own abilities and achievements; I have rarely come across anyone else with her level of knowledge or skill. She could break down almost anything technical and explain it without making me feel inferior or an inconvenience. This almost above all else is something I admire most.
Is there an area that you think she excelled in?Communication and customer service.
Can you share one thing you learnt from Anita?
We are here to share our knowledge and understanding with our patients so they can make the best decisions going forward. It's not our job to make those choices for them, but rather to make sure they have the information necessary to understand those choices.
She could break down almost anything technical and explain it without making me feel inferior or an inconvenience. This almost above all else is something I admire most
What advice did she give you about your future career?Never give up and if you want something go for it – it sounds cheesy but it is true. Don’t put off doing a course or the change you want out of fear of the unknown; rather jump and grab the opportunities as they come. Don’t regret taking the risk, learn from them.
Is there anyone else that you would like to mention who has inspired you throughout your optometry career?My current boss and mentor, Mark Huddart. He not only offered me a job but also gave me a chance to progress in ways that I would never have been able to pursue on my own. He’s guided me through both my conversion course and pre-reg, always offering help and support at every step. He is a fountain of information and a superb supervisor. I really wouldn’t be where I am now without him and his team.
If you could help to inspire someone, what words of advice would you give to them?
If you want something go for it – there are always people around to offer help and guidance, but you need to make the first step and make the change. Any change will be scary and feel wrong at first but stick with it and focus on the end goal. Always have something to aim for; never stagnate.
Amy on winning OT’s Instagram giveaway
Early last year you were the winner of OT’s Instagram giveaway and received an Oculus UB4 trail frame. Why did you decide to enter and how did you feel about winning?I still can’t believe I won. I entered on a whim, I saw the prize and sharing the post was so easy. I didn’t really think of it again until I was contacted, and I actually thought it was a hoax. I think I gave the OT team a bit of a hard time on that, but eventually it sunk in, and I was over the moon.
How does the Oculus UB4 trial frame compare to other trial frames you have used?I've used older models of the Oculus before and liked the set-up; it's very simple but sturdy and accurate. I would have loved one myself before now, but being a poor student meant using what I could get. They would occasionally slip 5-10 degrees on axis, or lenses would fall out the back, so I was constantly fishing them off the floor or worse. It could really feel clumsy and not great for the self-confidence. The new frame is smooth and comfortable to wear, which is a big bonus. I feel more competent and professional, and it means I can concentrate more on the task than juggling, which is so much better for patient outcomes too.
Would you recommend this to other pre-regs or newly qualified optometrists?
Yes. I’m starting to learn that paying a little more for the key components really does make a difference and they will last you so much longer as well. The trial frame is something you could be using daily if not all the time, so the peace of mind knowing it will work and be accurate each time you pick it up means you can focus on more important aspects of the test. It’s a small change in the grand scheme of things but I feel the difference and I am happier and more confident for it.
Amy on studying during the pandemic
How did you manage your studies during the pandemic?
I studied a conversion course from DO to optometrist at Bradford University. COVID-19 hit part of the way through my full-time study year. It meant a lot of invaluable face-to-face time was lost, but I have to say that the university department did a wonderful job of organising virtual lessons and exams to allow us to continue, rather than defer. It was not the ideal study year, but I got through it and more importantly moved on to the newer pre-reg programme with the College.
Overall, I found studying during COVID-19 a big challenge – self-discipline is not a strong suit of mine, but at the same time fewer distractions or excuses meant I had no choice but to focus on my studies. So in a strange way it has helped. I think it’s forced us all to think about what and why we do certain things within the job and not just operate on autopilot. Consequently, I think we are even more person and symptom centred than ever before, which I think can only be a good thing.