“More optometrists are required in the domiciliary optometry sector”

Newly-qualified optometrist, Aaron Uraon, on the role universities can play in demystifying domiciliary optometry as a potential career path

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With demand for home eye care services set to surge in the coming years as a result of the UK’s ageing population, more optometrists are required in the domiciliary optometry sector. Yet many optometrists are unaware of the opportunities that exist within domiciliary optometry, or have misconceptions about the role.

Universities can play a key role in addressing this gap, yet many don’t currently include domiciliary as a focus in their optometry curriculums. Consequently, students are less inclined to pursue opportunities in the domiciliary sector, despite it being reported one of the most satisfying areas to work in optometry in the GOC’s 2022 Registrant Survey

Demystifying domiciliary

A lack of knowledge also serves to perpetuate the many myths that already surround the sector. For example, when I told my fellow students that I was interested in a career in domiciliary, some claimed that I wouldn’t have access to quality testing equipment, such as a fundus camera, required to deliver a gold-standard eye test. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

In my role at OutsideClinic, I use the latest high-tech portable testing equipment, including a fundus camera. What’s more, far from offering an inferior test, I believe that I can actually deliver a better test than I could in a testing room. That’s because I’m able to spend longer with patients – my appointments typically last an hour – and as a result of testing in their home, I’m able to better understand the daily challenges each patient faces. Some also think it may be daunting to be out on your own seeing patients, but I’ve found that it really builds confidence. And if I ever need a quick second opinion, I know that the company’s professional services team is only a phone call away.

So, what can universities do to offer more education around domiciliary? I believe that the answer lies in reforms to how students gain practical testing experience. Currently, final year students are given the opportunity to develop their testing skills in set-ups that are typical of a High Street practice, but not domiciliary, and on patients who are not homebound. While this experience is helpful if you’re pursuing a career on the High Street, it’s not at all representative of the types of patients or environments you might encounter in domiciliary.

If more practical experience could be incorporated into the curriculum, students would gain vital experience of treating those who cannot make it to the High Street. They would also be better equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge required in domiciliary settings – and possess a clearer understanding of the incredible opportunities that exist in the sector.

Educating students

The appetite to learn about the sector exists already. The OutsideClinic team, led by Simon Raw, has been engaging with universities to deliver in-person lectures about domiciliary, as well as virtual sessions where students can watch a domiciliary eye test being delivered live. They’ve proved hugely popular – with optometry students at the University of Bradford voting the online session their favourite module of the year.

We urgently need to plug the optometrist gap in the domiciliary sector, and one of the ways we will address this challenge is by giving students greater exposure to this rewarding sector. There’s no time to waste either: while 460,000 eye tests were conducted in a domiciliary environment in 2021, research indicates that 2.7m people in the UK would actually benefit from such care, meaning many patients are currently missing out. It’s an easy solution – and one that needs to be implemented now.

About the author

Aaron Uraon is a newly-qualified optometrist at OutsideClinic.