Tips for choosing your pre-registration placement

Plymouth student rep, Luke McRoy-Jones, shares his advice on finding the ideal pre-reg placement

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When you first secure your place at university, working out where you want to work afterwards probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind. You’re looking forward to settling into student life and experiencing university. However, the reality is that making decisions like this become important more quickly than you think. As a vocational degree, university only provides the first part of your training as an optometrist and you need to complete a pre-registration year, under The College of Optometrists. With many options open to students in terms of location, supervision, companies and mode of practice, it can feel like a very big decision to make, in the midst of studying hard at university. 

I think the biggest thing to note is that there is no pre-registration placement that is perfect for everyone. The nature of each position will suit different people, depending on your clinical interests, your desired future and the working environment. I recently accepted a pre-registration placement at a multiple practice in my hometown. It’s local to me and the practice is classified as large, meaning there is a large team, including optometrists of different experience and interests, a large patient base and experienced supervisors. However, while this placement is a great fit for me, it won’t be for everyone so you should weigh up three things: practicality, suitability and support.

Practicality is about location, pay and accommodation options. While suitability and support are probably more important in terms of the learning and development experience, I believe the practicality of the placement is a factor. The pre-registration year is very demanding with continuous learning and assessment alongside full-time work, and you may not want worries or issues around long commutes, accommodation and financial worries to affect your performance.

Suitability is about considering whether the practice/provider is a suitable environment for you. This may include questions about the size of the practice and the clinical interests of the team, as well as the size of the patient base. 

Finally, I think support is probably the biggest factor. Having a supportive environment that nurtures your clinical development is key. Make sure you meet your potential supervisor and see if they are in tune with the demands of the placement. Also, having a chat to the rest of the practice team to find out about the working environment is very important.

The ‘ideal’ pre-registration placement is a very personal thing. You need to weigh up some of the above considerations against your own needs, interests and options. While it can appear daunting at first, take your time and don’t feel pressured into agreeing straight away. Use what you have around you (lecturers, your OpSoc) and your own reflection skills to help you make this massive decision!

Luke McRoy-Jones
Student rep, Plymouth University

Luke is a student at the University of Plymouth. Alongside the role of College rep, Luke is also the President of the Optometry Society and a Student Representative for the Association of Optometrists. His favourite thing about optometry is the ability to improve the quality of life, for the diverse mix of patients in which you get to interact with. He is particularly excited about the direction the profession is taking with enhanced services and one day hopes to have his own practice. If he wasn’t an optometrist, he’d probably be a stand-up comedian due to his quick wit.