AOP Awards

“As a locum, your career is literally in your hands”

The AOP Awards 2020 Locum of the Year, Prinal Patel, shares the moving image that first sparked her interest in optics

Prinal Patel

Prinal Patel was named Locum of the Year at AOP Awards 2020. She shares the motivations behind her decision to locum, and offers advice for those considering this route.

This is your 10th year as a locum. What has been your highlight?

Winning the AOP Award’s Locum of the Year 2020, volunteering in Ethiopia with Vision Aid Overseas, qualifying as an optometrist in Australia, and, finally, teaching at City, University of London.

What were you doing before you became a locum?

I was a mobile optometrist with a multiple. I was one year qualified before I went into locuming.

Why did you choose to become a locum?

I wanted to see what other opportunities optometry had and felt locuming was a good way to get exposure to different areas of the industry. I also enjoyed the flexibility that locuming offers, especially as I am a keen traveller.

I feel so honoured to be recognised within my profession


What’s the most important thing that you’ve learnt since becoming a locum?

Optometry has so many different aspects to it, whether it be High Street, hospital, domiciliary, industry, or university. Above all, locuming has taught me to be a strong, independent and confident optometrist.

How did it feel to win the AOP Award?

I felt so honoured to be recognised within my profession on a national level. What an accolade. To win such an incredible award is a wonderful privilege. With this award I hope to develop further within optometry and help make a change to the profession.

Why did you choose optics as a career?

I was 16 and traveling on the train reading a newspaper. The front page had a picture of a woman sitting on the side of a road in a third world country holding a sign post up. Translated, this signpost read, ‘I can sell my eyes for food.’ This got me thinking about the importance of eyes, loss of eyesight and the prevention of sight loss. Many years later, here I am, a qualified optometrist.

Optometry has so many different aspects to it


What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?

Definitely visiting Ethiopia with Vision Aid Overseas. It was such an incredible experience, in many aspects. Being a visiting clinical tutor at City, University of London, where I graduated from, has also been incredibly rewarding. The ability to pass on knowledge to others is such a rewarding feeling.

What is your next career goal? 

I would love to get involved in consultancy, leadership and training opportunities. I really enjoy optometry and believe there is so much work to be done regarding patient education and changing public perspective regarding eye care. As optometrists in the front line facing the public, we are in the perfect position to change this. I had a patient only two weeks ago attend due to a ‘watery eye’ and she actually apologised for coming in to see me and bother me – she just did not know where to go. We must change this perception as an industry.

What advice would you give to others who are considering becoming a locum?

It provides great flexibility, but you must be ready to push your own career. Be prepared to take extra time out to read around topics, learn new skills and attend courses. Your career is literally in your hands.

Locuming is really not about the money. There is no sick pay, no holiday pay, no security – so it works out the same. Be a trustworthy, punctual and organised locum, who works well with teams. Be a locum who cares for their patients as if they were a family member. It is so rewarding when patients ask to see you again.

Locuming has really allowed me to network and expose myself to new opportunities, and I have made some incredible friends through the process.