Learning curve: how optometrists are mastering new skills

29 May 2020
Acuity digital

Helen Gilbert describes the industry fine-tuning old areas of expertise and picking up new ones during the pandemic.

When Judith Field started a two-year secondment as an urgent treatment service lead in December 2019, little did she know she would be working back at a frontline eye clinic just four months later.

When the pandemic first struck, the principal optometrist had been asked to temporarily return to her role in the eye department at Colchester Hospital, part of the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

The once familiar way of working had changed beyond recognition. One-stop eye clinics – used to treating hundreds of patients a day – were open for emergency or essential eye care cases only. “It was a strange one,” admits Judith.

The hospital was quick to adapt. “All clinical secondments were put on hold,” Judith explains. “Staff with nursing skills that were not being used were being asked to retrain, so there was a maximum number of clinical staff within the trust to meet the number of patients coming in.”

Employees with reduced workloads volunteered to assist overstretched departments. Two of the visual field technicians were redeployed to help with portering services; they have since returned as the hospital enters the “recovery and reform” phase, Judith adds.

So which services have changed in the eye department, what has the impact been and are they still effective?

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