Who are you going to call?
How can locum optometrists build connections around them to help thrive professionally? OT asks locum optometrists about the benefits a professional network can bring
14 April 2023
For many employed optometrists, their closest professional connections will be with the colleagues they see, day-in, day-out – occasionally over the course of decades.
Dates for the diary
The AOP, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson Vision, is running a series of events with locum optometrists in mind
Online Locum Day: a series of five webinars delivering insight across a range of clinical disciplines. To be held virtually, Sunday 25 June.
Clinical Skills Conference: A one-day, face-to-face event designed to allow optometrists to practise core clinical techniques and develop skills in contemporary areas of practice. The day will deliver as a series of workshops run in a rotational circuit-style offering 15 interactive CPD points, including peer review. It will be held at the ABDO National Resource Centre, Birmingham, on 27 November.
For more information visit the AOP's events page.
For a locum optometrist, who may be the only clinician in a practice on a given day, building these important ties takes a different approach.
A locum’s network is formed through a conscious effort to form and maintain professional connections that remain as they shift between different settings and locations.
Locum optometrist, Rebecca Rushton, shared that she makes the most of opportunities to talk with other optometrists when working in practice.
“It’s great to have colleagues who can give you a second opinion or just sympathise when you’ve had a challenging day,” she said.
Like-minded learningRushton has also found LinkedIn useful for making professional connections, while attending workshops on topics that she is particularly interested in provide an opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals.
“Being involved in my local optical committee has been fantastic for meeting a diverse range of optical professionals from my local area as well as helping me to become familiar with the role of optics within the wider health and social care community,” she said.
When Rushton is uncertain about a case, she will consult diagnosis and referral guidelines.
Crowdsourced advice should generally be taken with a grain of salt
While groups dedicated to optometry on social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, can be helpful, Rushton applies a degree of caution to this approach.
“Crowdsourced advice should generally be taken with a grain of salt,” she said.
“You can manage your own diary to ensure you can attend events or take time to upskill. You also have the chance to meet different professionals through working across a variety of stores and regions,” he said.
However, Safdar adds that there can be financial considerations for locums when allocating time to educational and networking events.
Cultivating a professional network takes effort but it can have long-term benefits, Safdar shared.
“You might not see the benefit in the short-term, but, at some point in your career, you will find that that person, store, or contact you made whilst working as a locum proved to be key in your next role or life opportunity,” he observed.
Help on hand
When working in larger stores with more than one optometrist working, Safdar will ask a colleague for a second opinion of he is unsure about a particular case.
He added that sometimes there is a stigma attached to asking for advice as a locum.
“People think you should know everything as the locum, but in reality, that is impossible,” Safdar shared.
As a locum, you really do need to make a conscious effort to build a professional network
“My advice is to not be afraid to ask. It’s ok to not know as long as you're being safe and keeping the patients' best interest at heart,” he said.
Locum optometrist, Shamina Asif, shared that working in a practice as the only optometrist can be isolating.
“Working in a practice with other optometrists means you can discuss cases, learn from one another and find out about referral pathways,” she said.
“As a locum, you really do need to make a conscious effort to build a professional network,” she added.
Becoming involved with her local optical committee and attending continuing professional development events have helped Asif to form strong professional connections.
Getting to know what other optometrists specialise in during peer reviews can help when signposting patients, Asif shared.
“For example, if you then have a patient with keratoconus who needs a contact lens fitting you can then advise them which practitioner specialises in this,” she said.
Seven contact lens tips for locums
Johnson & Johnson Vision professional affairs consultant, Marie-Therese Hall, shares her guidance on moving seamlessly between the contact lens offerings of different practices
- Be familiar with the contact lenses available in each practice – find out which fitting banks the practice has, and which contact lenses require being ordered in
- For each of the contact lenses, familiarise yourself with the technologies used in each material and design, so that you can confidently choose, and communicate the benefits based on individual patient needs
- Find out about any Direct Debit plans available in the practice, and if this allows the patient any additional benefits, for example, discounted glasses
- Speak to the practice team to understand their confidence levels when it comes to contact lenses
- Understand whether you are expected to carry out the application and removal training yourself as part of the consultation, or if this can be delegated to a member of the practice team
- Familiarise yourself with any written information, such as wear and care guides that are given to the patient
- Keep up to date with contact lens technologies and look out for new contact lenses on the market. Contact lens manufacturers provide information on their websites. Sign up to newsletters, trade conferences. Many manufacturers provide CPD opportunities as well.