21 May 2020

Insiyah Bharmal: Life in lockdown

Insiyah Bharmal MCOptom, Optometrist at Vision Express in Nottingham, takes you through her journey of returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the lockdown status was declared on 23 March, who knew the world of optics would have to deal with a whole new definition of normal? Pre-lockdown, a week in practice consisted of a jam-packed waiting area, kids screaming, and a rolling clinic shared with three other optometrists. Now we have to selectively assess the level of urgency of each patient through phone triages in an empty practice, with just you and your manager. How things change! 

“After being asked to return to work, I felt anxious and uncertain. It felt like I wasn’t just returning to my old place of work, it actually felt like I was starting a whole new job. I carefully read the FAQs on the College website, and researched how our local hospital scheme would be running during the pandemic. I started brushing up on history and symptoms as this had become the epitome of the entire eye examination since phone triage had been put in place. 

“I’m still getting used to phone triage. Sometimes I find it hard to make a professional judgement between the patient having an urgent issue, and deciding that the patient can wait a little longer. Retinal tears, diabetic retinopathy, severe headaches and dry eye are some of the cases that I have seen and dealt with. Making the decision of seeing a patient purely based on their history can be difficult, I find it helps to get a second opinion and ask a colleague for their advice. 

“Performing a sight test wearing full PPE is not the easiest of tasks. The first time I wore a face-shield I found it prevented me from getting close to my slit-lamp, which proved to be a problem. I improvised by replacing the face shield with safety spectacles, making it easier to perform volk. Not only is it much harder communicating to your patients through the PPE, the correct disposal and disinfection of your room is a task in itself!

“As a newly qualified optometrist, it was always said that the first year would be the toughest. I definitely didn’t expect my first year to turn out the way it has. I feel for the current pre-regs having their assessments delayed, but my advice to them would be; ‘don’t let your knowledge slip and try to keep on top of your notes. Think of it as a blessing - you’ve got more time to ace it’.

“It is safe to say the world of optics is never going to be the same again. The evolution for optometrists is going to dramatically speed up over the next coming months. Adapting to this new way of life is going to be a challenge, but I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”  

Insiyah Bharmal MCOptom is an Optometrist at Vision Express Nottingham. 

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