Practice team digest

In-house experts

OT  asked long-standing individuals from across practice teams to share their journeys into the profession, the changes they’ve seen, and the key things they've learnt from colleagues over the years

An illustration of two figures, arrows are rising from the tops of their heads and crossing over, representing an exchange of knowledge

One of the benefits of working as part of a team is the opportunity to learn from others with differing skillsets, experiences, and knowledge.

There are those established members of the team who everyone turns to. They have seen technologies change and know the practice policies inside and out. They know the best places to grab lunch, or the trick to getting the temperamental printer working that only comes with insider knowledge. They have seen patients grow, fly the nest, and return – and never fail to ask after their families.

OT asked individuals from across practice teams to share how they came into optics, the ways they have seen their role and the industry change, their hopes for the profession, and what they have learnt from colleagues over the years.

Linda Southin, operations manager, Edmonds & Slatter Opticians, Leicester

Linda wears bold black spectacles and a black and white top, standing in front of an artwork that mimics the snellen chart
Linda Southin

“The role of operations manager for five practices and overseeing a team of more than 30 staff is no small feat. My journey from junior receptionist to this pivotal managerial position has been an exciting path and while I have been in my current role for around 18 months, I have been within the Edmonds & Slatter team for almost 24 years. In my role now, I am not just managing the day-to-day operations but also shaping the overall direction and success of the business. This includes everything from ensuring smooth workflows and efficient processes to fostering a positive work culture and delivering exceptional service to patients.

Overseeing multiple practices requires strong organisational skills, strategic thinking, and the ability to adapt to different environments and situations. Balancing the needs of each practice while maintaining consistency in standards and quality is no easy task, but hopefully my leadership plays a crucial role in achieving this.

It's fascinating how life's opportunities can lead us down unexpected paths. John Edmonds was my optometrist when I was a child. When I was 17, Edmonds & Slatter advertised for a junior receptionist, and I applied and was given the role. The rest, as they say, is history. One of the most significant lessons I've learned from colleagues, and aim to share with my practice teams, is the importance of adaptability and embracing change.

Technology has revolutionised our industry: from managing appointments digitally, to utilising advanced tools for precise measurements and diagnostics. Embracing these changes and continuously seeking opportunities to integrate new technologies into our practice not only enhances efficiency but also improves patient care and experience.”

One of the most significant lessons I've learned from colleagues and aim to share with my practice teams is the importance of adaptability and embracing change

Linda Southin, operations manager, Edmonds & Slatter Opticians

“Moreover, I've learned the value of staying updated with the latest trends and advancements in our field. Continuous learning and professional development are crucial for staying relevant and providing the best possible service to our patients. Whether it's attending workshops, seminars, or online courses, staying abreast of industry developments ensures that we can offer cutting-edge solutions and maintain our competitive edge in the market. Ultimately, fostering a culture of innovation and adaptability within our practice team enables us to thrive in an ever-evolving industry landscape and better serve the needs of our patients.

The growth and evolution of the optometry profession are vital for ensuring that communities have access to high-quality eye care services. As technology advances and new techniques and treatments emerge, optometrists are better equipped than ever to diagnose and treat a wide range of vision and eye health issues. By staying abreast of the latest advancements in the field and continuously expanding their skills and knowledge, optometrists can offer patients cutting-edge solutions and personalised care tailored to their specific needs. This not only improves patient outcomes but also enhances overall satisfaction and trust in the profession.

As the population ages and the prevalence of conditions increases, the demand for eye care services will continue to rise. Optometrists play a crucial role in meeting this growing need by providing comprehensive eye exams, prescribing corrective lenses, managing ocular diseases, and offering preventive care to maintain optimal eye health. By embracing innovation, fostering collaboration, and prioritising patient-centred care, the optometry profession can continue to blossom and thrive, ensuring that patients receive the service and dedication they deserve for many years to come. For me it's an exciting time to be part of such a dynamic and essential field.”

Roger Beckett, assistant manager and dispensing optician at Rawlings Opticians in Winchester

Wearing a shirt and tie and grey spectacles, Roger smiles at the camera
Roger Beckett

“I’ve been in this practice for 25 years, though I’ve been a dispensing optician (DO) since I was a teenager and I’m turning 60 this year.

My father used to work on the road as a rep for one of the big German lens manufacturers. When I was a kid, he used to take me around with him occasionally and I would visit the local opticians with him. I enjoyed going out on the road with my dad. That was my first introduction to the profession. When I left school and wasn’t too sure what to do, he introduced me to a chap who worked for Clement Clarke in Winchester. I started the dispensing course whilst there.

The biggest change in the sector has been deregulation. When I started, advertising was quite new and if you sold a designer frame it was quite unusual. The industry changed to become more retail oriented. I think the role of the dispensing optician isn’t always very well understood. People don’t know what we do because so many people do our role with varying levels of experience. I think any change that differentiates DOs is a good thing. If we can regain some of that professional status by doing something regulated, specific to DOs, then that would elevate our role and I see that as a good thing.

I’m passionate about working to a high standard, doing things properly and absolutely by the book. If you want to build a longstanding reputation do the job to the best of your ability, and be honest and fair with people. Put the patient’s interests paramount.”

If you want to build a longstanding reputation do the job to the best of your ability, and be honest and fair with people

Roger Beckett, assistant manager and dispensing optician at Rawlings Winchester

“One thing I’ve developed over the years is soft skills in working with customers and other people. All too often, it only comes when you are older, and I would include myself in that. I enjoy dispensing much, much more now, than I probably did 20 years ago, because I have developed those soft skills. It makes the dispensing process so much easier, friendlier, and honest. Someone once said to me: ‘It’s not good enough to be good at your job, you’ve got to get on with people.’ If you can do that, and be good at your job, then you’ve won. That comes with experience.

It helps that I’ve worked in the same place for so long. I’ve been seeing many of the customers for 25 years. Some of the children I saw at five have gone to university, come back and started families, and I’m still seeing them which is nice. Clients come in to ask me questions because they trust me. I always know that I can refer them on to my colleagues if there is something they need. It is lovely seeing so many people. When I walk down the High Street, I’m always seeing people that I know. One of the biggest things I like is that so many of the people that come in really care about what we do and consider their eyewear to be an important purchase. To be valued by your customers is a really nice thing.”

Nikki Dunn, dispensing assistant at Douglas Dickie Opticians, Aberdeen

Nikki smiles broadly, wearing black with sunglasses pushed on top of her head
Nikki Dunn
Nikki Dunn
“I joined Douglas Dickie Opticians in 1983 so it’s been 40 years. I started as a receptionist, then was promoted to chief receptionist. Douglas Dickie and Gillian, his wife – both optometrists – sold the practice to Duncan and Todd in 2000. I went on to become a dispensing assistant then assistant manager. I’ve had a gradual change of roles over the years and now I’m back to dispensing and I love it.

When we were brought over, we went from being a very small independent to joining a larger establishment in Duncan and Todd, and so we met lots of different people. It has meant that you get to see how things are done elsewhere – you may notice another practice does things differently, and it might be a small thing, but you think that it would work well here too.

Over the years, the little ones who used to come in have all grown up, married, and now have their own children who come to the practice. We have many families – all the generations of grandparents, children, and their children.”

There is nothing more rewarding than a happy patient

Nikki Dunn, dispensing assistant at Douglas Dickie Opticians
“I would say that optics has changed quite a bit. I feel it has become more clinical. The difference in contact lenses is unbelievable. When I first started, we used to boil the old contact lenses and now we have daily disposable ones, a complete game changer. Now more people are now wearing contact lenses. Now we have options for myopia management, which I think is exciting. I’m excited to see what happens in the profession, because it has certainly come on leaps and bounds over the 40 years I have been here.

I have learnt not to stress over little things. Working with the public can have its challenges but take every day as a different day. I’ve learned from people who have said: ‘We can only do our best for the patient.’ To any new young staff, I always say that as long as we make the experience really good for the patient that is coming in the door, and we do our best, that is the best we can do. There is nothing more rewarding than a happy patient.”


Alison Woodcock, dispensing optician and director of Peter Bowers Opticians in Staffordshire, and Thomas Bond Opticians practices in Nottingham, which are Hakim Group independent practices.

“I started in optics about 30 years ago as a receptionist. I worked at Peter Bowers Opticians for three days a week when my children were very young, then gradually progressed to five days and then became a dispensing optician. I had never thought of optics – I had been in banking previously – but as soon as I started I realised I absolutely loved the job. I still love the job and love dispensing to patients.

In 2018, Peter Bowers decided to retire and sold the business to myself and Imran Hakim. Then in December 2022 I had the opportunity to go into partnership with the five Thomas Bond Opticians practices.

I think the profession is more regulated, which I see as a positive. Though, I think the industry is not quite as fair to dispensing opticians as it is to optometrists.

As a director, staffing has probably been one of the biggest challenges: having the right staff, with the right mindset, and encouraging that. The key thing as a director is to get your staff on board with your direction and listen to them, because sometimes they have the most amazing ideas. It’s important to be open about sharing information within the practice. Enabling staff to have a voice in practice is the best thing because you can take their views on board: what worked well, what didn’t, what they like, and what they don’t. You have to make sure your teams are aligned correctly.”

The key thing as a director is to get your staff on board with your direction and listen to them, because sometimes they have the most amazing ideas

Alison Woodcock, dispensing optician and director of Peter Bowers Opticians and Thomas Bond Opticians, Hakim Group independent practices

“My optometrist has now qualified as an independent prescriber. I think that is probably the next stage that all optometrists should be exploring; looking at more responsibility within the sector and taking some of the pressure off of hospitals. I would love for DOs to be recognised a little more within the practice. I think that is one thing that Hakim Group do very well. When I first bought in with Imran, I didn’t realise how important my role was within the sector until he gave me the opportunity to become a partner with him. It is a good thing to encourage DOs to know they are able to buy into businesses and have that business mindset.

We’re making sure to modernise, keeping up to date with equipment, training within the industry, and across all our staff. The practices in Thomas Bond haven’t been modernised in 40 years so bringing them up to date is quite a challenge but I’m loving it, and the staff are up for it. We’ve refitted one practice, putting in Optomap, optical coherence tomography, and new refraction equipment, and we’re planning the other four.”

Josie Jimmy, vision therapist, Classic Eyes, a Hakim Group independent practice

Josie smiles wearing a floral pink top and black headband
Josie Jimmy
Josie Jimmy

“I’ve always had a passion for breaking barriers to learning and this led me to pursue primary education at university. When I graduated, my family had just relocated, and I decided to defer my newly-qualified teacher year [an induction now called early career teacher period] to get settled and decide on the direction I wanted to take with my career.

I saw an advertisement for the Reading Clinic, a one-to-one role aimed at improving children’s silent reading fluency and comprehension. When I applied and saw it was at an eye care centre, honestly, I wondered what the link between a Reading Clinic and optician was, but it became clear in the interview that there is more to vision than just sight. It was a lightbulb moment: the missing link that I wasn’t getting in the classroom. Understanding the connection between vision and learning gave me the opportunity to help children break down hidden barriers to learning. I’ve been here ever since – 14 years.”

I’ve always had a passion for breaking barriers to learning

Josie Jimmy, vision therapist, Classic Eyes, a Hakim Group independent practice
“Our practice is evolving all the time – we’re always investing in new technology and developing our knowledge and skills. Within my role I’ve seen greater awareness of the links between vision and learning in schools and an increase in recognition and referrals from other professionals. There is still so much to learn, and I hope awareness continues to build.

A colleague of mine once said: ‘It’s not what you do that is most important, but why you do it.’ That resonated with me because there is so much meaning behind our ‘why’. I want to help children reach their full potential. We’re all a team trying to make a difference.”