How my experience working at Boots has helped me at university

I started working at Boots Opticians in December 2010 as an Optical Consultant, and if I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t be at Ulster University studying optometry!

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Boots Opticians has provided me with high quality training, which has enhanced my knowledge on visual function, and dispensing optical products. Having this foundation of knowledge has helped me throughout my time at university so far. In first year, we studied ‘Visual and Ophthalmic Optics’, and even just knowing what myopia and hypermetropia were was a great help! Another module we had was ‘General Examination Techniques’, which whilst most of it was new to me, I had experience working with various perimetry instruments throughout my time working with Boots.

Another instrument you are introduced to in first year is the focimeter, which measures the power of lenses. In work, I had to check the entire delivery of glasses using a manual focimeter, so I have had quite some time to master the art that is focimetry! Having this skill meant I could help my classmates to understand how to use the focimeter, whilst still practising myself for the assessment.

Dispensing glasses is a major part of my job, and the knowledge of various features and benefits of lenses, how lenses work and the problems certain prescriptions can create, has been a great advantage to me during the ‘Dispensing Practice’ module. However, in saying that, there was a great deal that I learnt during this module, which in turn has made me a better optical consultant.

One of the core things my classmates and I have been taught throughout our time at university so far, is our routine eye examination. It can sometimes be difficult to find time to practise when the clinics are also unoccupied. Therefore, on some occasions, my store has let me practise parts of the routine, under the supervision of one of our optometrists. This really has helped me with my assessments and I have had some great advice on how to refine my techniques.

When applying for your pre-registration position at the various companies, I believe that having experience working in an optometrists helps, no matter how long it is. It helps you get an idea of what it is like to work in store and what the company is all about. This can be helpful for interviews as well, as not only can you talk about the company and why you want to work for them, but you can also show that you are commercially aware.

Personally, I know that working in an optometrists has helped me, as I achieved an Academic Excellence Award for my first-year results, and I have now been offered a placement for my pre-registration year with Boots Opticians. Therefore, I recommend anyone undertaking an optometry degree to try to gain some experience working in an optometric practice. Not only will it enhance your knowledge and practical skills, it also gives you a bit extra money for when the student loan is running out!

Emma Armstrong
Ulster University