Locum optometrist guide

Step change

From a brisk walk at lunch to stretches during a tea break, OT  explores simple methods for staying physically healthy at work

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After a day bending and twisting while performing sight tests, a weary locum optometrist would be forgiven for preferring the couch to the gym.

But perhaps there are ways of counteracting the effects of a relatively sedentary profession without hitting the treadmill.

A growing body of evidence is showing that small amounts of activity, often – described as ‘exercise snacks’ – can have a range of positive effects.

Research by Colombia University in 2023 found that taking a one-minute walking break every hour during the working day reduced blood pressure by four to five points. This is the same effect you might see after going for a run, swim or cycle ride.

A five-minute walking break every half hour had the same effect on blood pressure, and also reduced the surge in blood sugar after eating by 60% – the same kind of reduction you would see with a diabetic receiving an insulin injection.

Optometrist and mindset coach, Sheena Tanna-Shah, shared that a lunchtime walk has the added benefit of spending time in fresh air, with many optometrists working in rooms without windows.

“It can be easy to work through lunch or eat whilst doing tasks such as referrals but it’s vital to have a good break to ensure you feel refreshed and energised for an afternoon clinic,” she said.

Locum optometrist, Usman Farooq, recommends parking a little further away from the practice to boost the daily step count.

“You can motivate yourself with cheaper or free parking,” he shared.

Farooq also makes an effort to have lunch outside “when the great British weather permits.”

Locum optometrist, Sam Phillips, makes the most of small breaks within the day to fit in exercise.

“If you get an opportunity to move, take it. For example, where time allows, walk to a staff room to make tea and coffee for others or help out with other jobs around the practice,” he said.

Aches and pains

Niggles and aches are a common occupational hazard for eye care professionals. A survey of 514 ophthalmologists, optometrists, and orthoptists in 2023 by Saudi Arabian researchers found that 67% of respondents experienced musculoskeletal pain.

Locum optometrist, James Brawn, shared that locum optometrists can be particularly vulnerable to this issue.

“As a locum, you are using a workstation optimised for the resident, and unless you are of a similar build, it can cause the positioning of your chair, the slit lamp table or computer to be incorrect for you. I have previously struggled with musculoskeletal issues due straining myself whilst using equipment which is at an awkward height,” he said.

Locum optometrist, Frank Eperjesi, adjusts his chair ahead of his clinic and elevates the patient’s chair before direct ophthalmoscopy.

“Aches and strains generally flow from a badly set up optometrist's chair and from bending when conducting direct ophthalmoscopy,” he said.

Phillips shared that regularly taking a few moments to stretch his back and neck helps to prevent strains from developing.

“Use apps to guide this if you’re unsure on what stretches are best,” he said.