100% Optical

“Make sure you are standing on solid foundations”

Wellbeing myths were addressed and tools to aid good mental health were identified during Specsavers’ 100% Optical peer review

A person in a pink jumper and mustard cord trousers is reading a book and holding a cup of tea
Wellbeing concepts and myth busting was the topic of conversation during Specsavers’ Saturday afternoon peer review at 100% Optical 2024 (24–26 February).

The session, entitled The power of you: using wellness to drive performance, was hosted by Specsavers optometrist and clinical performance consultant, Maria McGoldrick, and senior HR business partner at the multiple, Jessica Smith.

The aim of the session, which was accredited for the CPD domains of communication and professionalism, was to make attendees confident in spotting when colleagues might need support in maintaining their wellbeing.

The peer review laid out the three pillars of wellness: living well, working well, and being well.

Smith opened the session by emphasising the importance of wellness in performance, while McGoldrick noted that psychological and mental wellness are as important as physical wellness.

Attendees should consider whether certain things in life are adding to their overall wellness, or detracting from it, McGoldrick said.

McGoldrick acknowledged that attendees were all likely to either have been working, completing their pre-reg placements or at university during the pandemic, and that “we can’t underestimate the impact that that has had.”

It is possible to survive through things, but the after effect of events should be considered too, McGoldrick said.

Smith explained that stress occurs when hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are sent out into our bodies, and spoke about the physical impact this can have.

“It’s those hormones that create those physical symptoms in our bodies, such as shallow breathing and increased heart rate, that trigger stress responses,” Smith said.

“A key component of the stress response is the endocrine changes that happen in our body, and they are when the chemical messages that are typically associated with the normal functioning of our bodies are impacted,” she continued.

Most triggers come from cognitive threats and it is important to recognise these responses so we can counter them, Smith said.

She added that, for herself, public speaking is a cognitive threat that triggers a stress response of a quickened heart rate.

“The main thing is, we are all different, and we will all respond differently. But stress is really normal, and how we manage it can be really productive,” Smith said, adding that stress is not necessarily always to be avoided – in fact, it is about balance.

“Nobody can prevent bad things happening in your life,” McGoldrick added, “but what we can do is make sure you are standing on solid foundations.”

She emphasised that optometrists may look for stress factors in patients, but that they should not neglect looking for it in themselves too.

“If we liken this to how we would treat a patient, we don’t wait for glaucoma to get worse,” she said, adding: “We look to intervene. We look to create a management plan, and we look to improve clinical outcomes for patients. Why don’t we tend to apply those things to ourselves?”


Tools to help aid wellness

After discussing common myths, Smith and McGoldrick went on to discuss tools that can be used to help aid wellness.

McGoldrick first advised creating space between yourself and the problem by articulating it to someone else.

“If the issue is right in your face, you can’t see it,” she said.

Meditation, exercise and journalling were also noted as things that might help practitioners reflect on an issue.

Whilst using these tools, optometrists should also accept that they might need external help, she said.

McGoldrick also referenced the AOP’s Peer Support Line, which members and non-members can use to speak to a trained peer about the issues they are facing.  

Smith then introduced attendees to the wellness wheel, which can be used to assess different forms of wellness and to help articulate certain issues.

Attendees split into groups, with the instruction to rank their personal satisfaction on various issues out of 10.

The groups then went on to discuss various optometry-specific case studies, starting with how further commissioning of enhanced optical services might lead to more complex and urgent cases being seen in practice.

Practitioners considered steps that they might use to manage reduced confidence when presented with these cases, along with how both themselves and patients might feel in this scenario.

Balancing busy workloads and when to ask for support was also covered, as was how spending increased time on wellbeing could support clinical practice.

“If you’re dealing with things that feel outside of your scope of practise, you really don’t want to be doing that, and you shouldn’t be doing that,” McGoldrick said.

However, she added, “it is okay to say, ‘I don’t know this, and I need to learn more.’ Sometimes these things creep up on you, but you do need to take that responsibility, identify what these things are, and invest your time into that.”

This situation presents an opportunity to close the skills gap and invest in your career in the long-term, McGoldrick said.

The groups also discussed how to manage a situation where a patient has made a complaint about an optometrist colleague, with the view that they had previously ‘got it wrong.’

Attendees were encouraged to discuss what might support their wellbeing if faced with this experience, what tools might be available to support others, and how they might approach a personal action plan related to work and wellbeing.

McGoldrick ended the session by emphasising that a duty of candour with patients is important, that good documentation is vital, and that it is important to have an awareness that things can change with patients.

“There is a way to take care of our colleagues and work together to make sure that we get the best learning outcomes,” McGoldrick said. “It might be that you look at that process and think, ‘actually, there is something that we can work on together to take from this.’”

She closed by emphasising that the lessons and tools learnt in the session should not be used just for ‘a moment in time,’ but that they should be used in all situations and across different scenarios in practice.