Is an optometrist ever off duty?

1 November 2023
Autumn 2023

Once it’s known you are a health professional, people may ask you for advice. Kaye McIntosh asks if it is ever appropriate to discuss clinical problems outside the consulting room.

Annette Parkinson MCOptom, Deputy Head of the School of Optometry at the University of Bradford, was in church arranging flowers for Harvest Festival when Margaret approached her. “Oh, I’m so glad I’ve seen you! Can I ask you about...”

“My heart sinks when someone says that because you are making a decision based on very limited information,” Annette says.

Margaret had no idea that she was in real trouble. “Her vision had been disappearing, going completely black in one eye for a few moments, then coming back. She just assumed it would be something straightforward,” Annette continues. 

She’d waited a few days before casually mentioning it when she bumped into Annette. But the optometrist knew different. “I said, you need to see the doctor tomorrow. Don’t take no for an answer. This is an emergency.”

Margaret was lucky. Thanks to Annette’s advice, she was diagnosed with a blocked carotid artery and underwent a bypass. “If she’d waited another week to tell me it could have been so much worse.

“She’d been having these brief episodes but she wasn’t having one at that moment. You can’t just go to casualty because they won’t be able to deal with that. You have to have them go through the right stages of medical care.”

Challenges and ethics

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