Building professional skills

Work experience in a hospital eye clinic

Aaron Symonds, Anglia Ruskin University

Work experience in your local eye hospital is a great way to improve your knowledge of ocular disease. Understanding what happens post referral enables us to explain the process to our patients, putting their minds at ease, which means we can provide better patient. It also shows the value of traits such as diligence, leadership and empathy. I recently spent a day shadowing Prof Ben Burton an ophthalmologist at my local hospital eye service. Prof Burton is the newly elected President of the Royal College of Ophthalmology and is an extremely experienced and knowledgeable clinician. Throughout the day, he demonstrated qualities that make an exemplary clinician - one of the best in his field.

A morning in surgery
I started the day in full scrubs, observing cataract operations. All the procedures I watched were phacoemulsifications. These were very interesting, as they involved such minute tools to complete such a delicate technique. I was surprised how quickly these operations were completed and the fact the patient where awake during the entire procedure. Seeing first-hand how such a quick and effective procedure can relieve the problems of cataracts is one of the things that makes me love our profession.

A range of pathology in afternoon clinic
After a morning observing surgery, I prepared for an afternoon of Prof Burton’s clinic for seeing people who had been referred and patients that require continued treatment. Most of the patients would have a pre-screening of OCT, visions, visual acuities and pressure, and been dilated before seeing the ophthalmologist. Prof Burton has an excellent manner with all his patients; empathising with them and putting them at ease, while extracting enough information to produce a clinical diagnosis. The eye hospital produces a wide range of eye pathology from wet and dry age-related macular degeneration to the less common giant cell arteritis. Professor Burton explained all the pathology and symptoms, signs and managements and treatments after all the appointments, which was extremely helpful for my studies, and I attempted to write all these down for my upcoming exams on ocular disease.

I would highly recommend any student optometrists to spend some time shadowing an ophthalmologist to aid not only your studies, but to gain a better understanding of the personal qualities needed to be a great clinician.

Volunteer Teaching: A Great Addition to Your CV

Ha Long She, University of Manchester

To get the pre-registration position that you want, you need a CV that stands out. Many optometry students choose to do voluntary work to widen their horizons and enrich their CVs, and I chose to volunteer as a Cantonese language teacher at the International Society of University of Manchester. I have learnt a lot and sharpened many transferable skills that will help me excel in my future career, and so would like to recommend this way of volunteering to all course mates.

Why should you, a future optometrist, choose to be a volunteer teacher?
You may think that you are striving to become an optometrist, so what does teaching have to do with you? Actually, teaching is something that optometrists do every day.

We teach patients how to handle contact lenses, how to correctly clean their spectacles, educate them about the importance of hygiene to their eyes and more. With a good teacher, patients can avoid catching diseases, like Acanthamoeba, due to poor hygiene. Practising giving instructions and teaching your patients will definitely help you to provide high quality patient care.

What do you need to do as a volunteer teacher?
You need to help your students acquire the knowledge in a range of different ways. For example, I taught my student writing, reading, speaking and listening with tailor-made PowerPoint slides with MCQs. I also played a Cantonese song for them to listen and asked them to write down the numbers they could hear. You could also design some games for your students to play such as Bingo. The key point is to make the lesson more lively and interactive, instead of a boring reading session.

What can you gain as a volunteer teacher?
Teaching can really help boost interpersonal skills, including communication skills when you make friends with the students. You can’t just throw things out for them to absorb. You need to listen to them and respond to their questions or requests. This is actually very similar to how optometrists work when a patient come in. The first thing you do, is to listen to their problems carefully. And then, you figure out the causes and give them the solution.

You can also hone your organisational and time management skills, as you need to plan the teaching schedules and materials yourself. You can boost your self-confidence when you speak aloud in front of people too.

How can you become a volunteer teacher at the International Society?
If you are a Manchester student interested in being a volunteer language teacher like me, you can find more information on the International Society website. Don’t worry – you don’t need any previous experience to apply.

Volunteer teaching is a fantastic way for optometrists to gain experience that will certainly come in handy when you are qualified, especially if you are thinking of becoming a principal optometrist or lecturer in the future!

Meet your student reps