Independent vs multiple

Independent and multiple practices are like night and day and I have been lucky enough to have experience in both. I began working as an optical assistant in a small independent with only one optometrist, who was also the owner of the practice, before moving to a multiple a year later.

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Starting a job in optics can be daunting as there is so much to learn and many practical skills that will only improve with experience. Working in a quiet practice gave me the time to work on these skills with help from my colleagues. I enjoyed working in an independent as you really get to know the patients as the database is much smaller than a large multiple. However, working in an independent practice can have its downfalls; for example, many independents cannot offer a pre-registration placement due to a lack of test rooms and funding. Also, it is difficult to relocate when working for an independent as most only have one practice and is therefore less flexible than working for a multiple.

Moving to a multiple was very different as it was more fast pace and sales driven. With targets to achieve daily I found it difficult to adapt to the new way of working but thankfully there were lots of team members around if ever I needed help. Currently at my work there are optometry students in their final year and others in pre-registration year. It has been extremely helpful to be surrounded by generations of optometry students who offer advice and tips from their personal experiences. Also, working in a multiple practice there are organised courses which you can attend to meet other people from the company and develop the skills needed as an optical assistant.  

The pre-registration programme is likewise very appealing, and offers training sessions, mock exams and group tutorials, which are usually non-existent in an independent. After your pre-registration year, there are several opportunities, for example you can become a mobile optometrist or you can advance to become a store manager. Working in a multiple allows you to relocate as there are many other practices around the country which can be more of a challenge if you work for an independent. It is similarly a good experience working for a busy practice as you see a plethora of patients and conditions each day. However, as the patient database in a multiple practice is greater than in an independent, it is difficult to really get to know your patients as you could in an independent practice.

To summarise, I believe if I had not had the previous experience in an independent practice I would have struggled with the high demand and fast pace of a multiple. Overall I have had a positive experience in both independent and multiple practices and plan to remain in a multiple for my pre-registration year. It is important to remember that every practice is different and this is only my experience of the matter.

Amy Montgomery
Glasgow Caledonian University