“Further education keeps things interesting”
Optometrist Pat Friis on the High Street and the hospital, further education, and expanding the scope of the profession
04 March 2023
At school, I knew I wanted to work in healthcare so when the time came I looked at what careers were available in the sector.From what I could tell then, optometry seemed to offer good scope for working in a range of roles and settings, which is what I wanted. That has certainly proved to be the case and I’m glad that I prioritised that early on, as it is working very well for me now.
I studied at the University of Bradford and really enjoyed it. I met my wife there, so that was a plus.In academic terms, the lecturers were knowledgeable, approachable people who were good at teaching and developing young minds. I enjoyed all my sessions and clinics and learned a lot. I have kept in touch with some of the lecturing staff and they have been valuable contacts as I have progressed in the profession.
I completed my pre-reg placement at St James's Hospital in Leeds, where I still spend part of my working week now.I wanted to do a hospital pre-reg as my aim, once qualified, was to be working, at least some of the time, in enhanced role clinics in the hospital. I wanted to be in that setting from the start. The department in Leeds is run in a very supportive way and staff development has always been prioritised, which has given me some great opportunities in my career so far.
It was important to me to experience different aspects of the profession first-hand to know what works well for me and what doesn’t
Standout moments during my pre-reg all centre around different pathologies that I saw for the first time, since that was my area of greatest interest.On one occasion I was sitting in with a junior ophthalmologist, who must be a consultant by now. He gave me a lot of opportunities to work with him in eye casualty and lot of really valuable input (thanks Ahmed). We saw a guy who had lost a contact lens during a drunken night out and managed to tear his own conjunctiva while going fishing for the lens that was no longer there. His eye was a bruised, infected mess by the time he got to us, but the doctor I was with was very calm and methodical, gave the damaged tissue a trim, got him started on treatment and away he went. I wanted to reach a point where I could handle such a striking and potentially alarming case as competently as that.
I’ve done a bit of everything since I qualified.I’ve done spells working full time for Specsavers, I’ve worked in independent practice and in hospital practice, I’ve done research and worked as part of both an existing university team and a team building a new optometry course. It was important to me to experience different aspects of the profession first-hand to know what works well for me and what doesn’t. I have worked with some great people and all my roles have taught me a huge amount, plus given me a clearer idea of what I want my next steps to be.
Since qualifying I have even been back to the University of Bradford to work as a clinical demonstrator, and was pleased to get a chance to work with some of the people who had taught me.They were just as supportive as when I was a student, and their skills and input were just as valued. It’s something I hope to return to in the future when I have more time.
Currently, I split my week between working on the High Street, in the hospital, and studying.This combination allows me to maintain and enhance skills I have previously acquired, develop new skills and implement the knowledge and theory I gain from the academic content of my Master’s course. It gives me a work week that incorporates all the individual elements and keeps things interesting as I like a challenge.
Further education and qualifications allow us to demonstrate our ability and continue to expand the offering we as a profession can make. There is an exciting future for optometry provided we can make ourselves heard by the right people when services are being commissioned and budgets are being allocated
Working in a multiple with Specsavers, I perform primary care eye examinations and contact lens care, as well as referral refinement for glaucoma referrals and community eye care service assessments for patients with eye health concerns.I also provide supervision for our two current pre-reg optometrists and a trainee contact lens optician. In the hospital – St James’s Hospital, Leeds – I work in a variety on different clinics, including the emergency eye care clinic, taking emergency referrals from other optometrists, GPs, A&E and other medical specialties. This can include urgent cases, from picking bits of metal out of people’s corneas with needles to treating acute sight-threatening infections, inflammations, unexplained loss of vision and any other cases that other practitioners want assessing quickly. I also perform specialist contact lens fitting to improve the vision of patients with pathologies such as keratoconus, and cosmetic contact lens fitting for those with damaged or injured eyes.
I’m just beginning the second year of a Master’s in advanced clinical practice (ACP) in ophthalmology with Moorfields Eye Hospital and the University College London, which Specsavers is funding. My directors are providing me with study time to complete it.I wouldn’t have been able to do this Master’s without the support from Specsavers as a whole and from my directors, Rebecca and Ross. I believe Specsavers does a lot to push the profession forward and putting a cohort of its optometrists through an ACP Master’s demonstrates this. I’m excited to see where the next steps will take the profession and by being involved with things like ACP accreditation, I should be well-placed.
To me it is important that I’m working to the highest level I can.
My patients, in whatever setting I see them, have a right to expect expert care and to receive the best available treatment and support for their eye health. To be able to live up to that I want to make sure that I’m always developing my knowledge, skill and experience. I think it’s important to focus on those three attributes equally as any one of them without the others is of limited use.
For me, further education keeps things interesting.
I want to continue to have new opportunities and to expand my scope of practice, so further education is vital.
As a profession we are extremely well-placed to help relieve pressure on over-stretched NHS services and improve patient access to timely, high-quality eye care.
We are knowledgeable, well-equipped, willing and able to take significant amounts of eye care out of some hospital clinics and GP practices and deliver it in community optometry practices. Further education and qualifications allow us to demonstrate our ability and continue to expand the offering we as a profession can make. There is an exciting future for optometry provided we can make ourselves heard by the right people when services are being commissioned and budgets are being allocated.