Why it's important to be involved in activities outside of optometry

To completely understand the industry I aspired to go into, I felt it was important to research and experience every aspect of it as much as I could, to truly know if this is the right career path for me.

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When it came to sending off my applications to study optometry at the given universities I wanted to acquire some work experience. I enquired at Specsavers and was offered a week’s worth of experience. It was an immensely informative week I had the chance to meet every member of staff and ask them numerous questions about their roles. For example, I watched how an optical assistant carried out a dispense on a patient’s glasses. I also had the opportunity to shadow the optometrists in the practice and see how they carried out specific eye tests based on the patient they were seeing throughout the day. It was great seeing individual tasks being carried out by the staff who were experts within their role. I was offered a part time position within the practice after I had finished my work experience. This was very beneficial for me as I could put some of the experiences I had seen into practice whilst working. Overall, the experience has helped me greatly in seeing how a busy high street optometrists work on a day to day basis and the way the staff communicate with customers and with each other. When I start my pre-registration year I feel confident that the transition into my new role will be much easier having that knowledge behind me.

Further to my optical experience, I also acquired work experience within an eye unit at hospital. I was excited to see the various cases while shadowing the ophthalmologists and nurses. On one occasion I was with the head nurse during a glaucoma clinic for the day and saw patients take visual field tests, they were then seen by the ophthalmologist who explained relevant conditions in detail and the specific treatments. I also had the chance to watch cataract surgery and saw in detail how it was carried out, it was exceptional how the surgeons managed to bring the patients sight back. During my week at the eye unit I observed a great deal of information about conditions and the machines used to test and treat patients. It will give me a head start when I come across optical machinery during my clinical skills module at university as I have previously used them in hospital. Furthermore, seeing the ocular conditions first-hand has been an advantage for me when coming to investigate them in seminars and lectures.

These experiences and more have given me an insight into studying optometry at university and an understanding of how things are run within the optometric industry. It has undoubtedly helped me throughout my time at university. This is the main reason why I would say its crucial for every optometry student to gain some level of experience prior to starting the course.

Gary Hayrapetyan
Plymouth University