I’ve been back in optometric practice for three months now and, in the main, it feels like I was never away. I’ve found my feet and testing eyes feels like second nature once more. However, there is so much more to being an optometrist than just refraction, that is finding what spectacle prescription a patient needs. We screen for glaucoma and other eye diseases. We must act appropriately and in a timely manner and know whether our clinical findings are indicative of a sight or even life-threatening condition. This determines the nest steps. Do we refer our findings to a General Practitioner or to the emergency eye department? And how urgently? There are protocols, regulations and guidelines to follow. These differ depending on which area (health authority) you practice in. And in common with many scientific and medical fields, we need to keep up to date with the latest research.
When I first went back into optometric practice, I was rusty to say the least. My sight test routine didn’t flow and I felt “clunky.” The non-contact tonometer (NCT, the puff of air machine we use to measure the pressure in the eye), is a model I hadn’t used before. At first, I couldn’t get to grips with it, despite numerous attempts on the practice owner and my willing parents. I felt frustrated and rather stupid. However, a quick look at a You Tube video that evening explained how to use it, and the next day, I got readings first time.
We are incredibly fortunate to have an OCT in the practice I work in. This is an optical coherence tomographer which scans the retina. It’s very much like an ultrasound scan but it uses light instead of sound. Interpreting the scans takes some doing. I’ve spent hours watching videos and reading up about it and went on a dedicated course. I’m much more confident, but there’s still so much I’d like to learn.
The owner of the practice is absolutely brilliant and for the first six weeks, I had one hour for each appointment. Now, I see a patient every half hour. This seems like a luxury compared to the practices I worked in before my career break, but it is completely necessary. I show and talk through the patient’s OCT scan, take an in depth history, perform the sight test, measure the intra-ocular pressure and do a visual field test.
I’ve always enjoyed learning and expanding my knowledge, so the mandatory Continuing Education and Training, (CET), is never a chore. I’m doing as much as I possibly can, alongside everything else. Courses, articles, books and papers, whatever form it takes, I love. I want to be the best practitioner I can.
On a personal note, I feel more fulfilled in my overall career than ever before. It is, hands down, the best practice I’ve ever worked in. Every member of staff is not just excellent at their job, but lovely to work alongside. We have top quality equipment and three frame rooms, full of high-end stylish eyewear. Going back into optometric practice was, without question or caveat, the right decision. It felt like a long road back at times, (read about it here), but it’s one I’m very glad I took.