24 June 2020

Pre-reg during a pandemic - part one

Join Seraphina Yap, pre-reg trainee at PLM Optometrists in Scotland, as she navigates her new life on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic with her supervisor David Cummins MCOptom DipTP (IP).

Please note: This series will explore Seraphina’s journey from the start of the pandemic, and continue to present day.

Life before COVID-19

“Before COVID-19 came to the UK, I was enjoying the momentum of being six months into my pre-reg. Each week I rotated between three of the five PLM practices gaining knowledge from different supervisors. On a typical day, I’d see between four and six patients from start to finish - as is the PLM way! 

“I’d spend some evenings after work in the Leven practice with David my supervisor, to go through my records, patient episodes and competences. During our March meeting I found I was right on track with my numbers. Little did I know how much things were about to change!”

Life when COVID-19 began

“When COVID-19 cases started increasing, my diary began to have more cancellations. Many patients had to self-isolate due to their age and risk factors. There was an air of worry within the practice when patients coughed or cleared their throats. Still, everyone tried to stay positive and lighten the tense atmosphere. I remembered laughing as David and the optical assistants joked about having our chairs 2m apart. Ironically, as the cases got worse, chairs had to be moved 2m apart!

“When lockdown was announced, things were uncertain and changed by the day. I got told to stay in the Leven practice to minimise social interaction. Soon after, I was told that the practice could only have two people working at a time, meaning our days at work would change. The next day, I returned to hear news that all optical assistants in Leven were going to be furloughed. David asked if I might consider working with him during this crisis to help with the front desk and triage calls. I readily agreed as I was happy to help in any way I could after all that he and the PLM team had done for me. 

“There were a lot of loose ends to tie up. The optical assistants hurried to organise the front desk and the practice before leaving. I remember a feeling of uncertainty, fear and sadness in the practice during this time. Circumstances had changed so quickly in just a matter of days, and no one knew when they would be back. I could tell it was tough for the optical assistants to leave because they clearly enjoyed their work.”

Initial changes to the practice

“We changed to operate a locked door policy, opening only for emergencies, collections and repairs. Even amidst the mundanity of repair work, it has been satisfying fixing specs. It’s incredible how these times make us appreciate the basic things in life like having a simple pair of functioning glasses. 

“We only see emergencies. We triage calls on eye problems to carefully determine if their symptoms are indicative of an eye emergency where sight loss is possible. These patients typically report symptoms such as flashes and floaters, sudden reduction/loss of vision and eye pain. After triaging, I pass the details over to David who then does a phone or video consultation to get further details and decide on the management plan. Some management options include making an appointment for face-to-face consultation or an email prescription for patients to get the necessary eye drops from the pharmacy. Other management options include monitoring and following up in the next couple of days. Monitoring is our ideal management for conditions that don’t seem to be an emergency or for patients who are highly vulnerable to catching the virus.” 

Read part two of Seraphina's journey.

Seraphina Yap is a Pre-Registration Trainee at PLM Optometrists in Fife, Scotland. She currently works in an Emergency Eye Treatment Centre in Leven with her supervisor, David Cummins MCOptom DipTP (IP). 

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