Vicky has a degree in optometry and works for Boots Opticians as a community optometrist.
I spent a wonderful three years as an undergraduate studying optometry at Cardiff University. During my second year, I was awarded a Nuffield scholarship to carry out a hospital-based research project. I later moved to the Midlands to spend my pre-registration period and several consecutive years in the hospital eye service. In September 2009, I accepted the position of resident optometrist in a local Boots Opticians.
Saturday work in the family practice exposed me to the reality of community optometry at an early age. I saw, first hand, the patience, support and communication skills necessary to excel as a community optometrist. These skills were consolidated at university. Alongside the physics and biology behind the deliverance of competent eye care, we learned the importance of logical thinking, understanding and empathy.
Now, as a community optometrist, my principle daily tasks are listening, problem solving and communication: listening to patients, to their friends or families; understanding their difficulties and frustrations; and communicating appropriately with each individual patient to reach a simple, achievable and logical solution. Dealing with the public takes a lot of patience and, in truth, is not always easy. But knowing that, on a daily basis, I am making a genuine difference to someone's quality of life somehow makes the odd bad day seem all the more worthwhile. As a community health professional, you are often perceived by the public as an approachable, accessible point of contact (even when the problem may be completely unrelated to the eyes!).
In addition to my daily role of optometrist, I am the pre-registration mentor for my region. This job involves guiding the trainees in my region through their final year, providing them with clinical, professional and personal support in their day-to-day activities. I meet with the students, carry out mock assessments, run tutorials and hopefully provide a friendly face when they too have a bad day. I have also been involved with the Association of Optometrists since I was an undergraduate - appointed first as a student rep, then pre-registration rep, newly-qualified rep and now employed optometrist rep. Protection and preservation of our profession is something I feel very strongly about. In the future, I hope to continue and build on this aspect of my career.
First-hand experience is key to any career choice. It opens your eyes to the advantages and disadvantages involved, while allowing you to start building on your own personal skills within the workplace. It will show future employers that you have considered all aspects of your chosen profession, are enthusiastic and motivated, and may even provide a little extra spending money to justify that trip to Topshop at the weekend!
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