Case study

Highly specialist orthoptist — Prianka Gandesha

Working in a busy hospital, Prianka has developed her skills to become a highly specialist orthoptist. Find out more about how she has progressed from being a newly qualified orthoptist to mentoring new orthoptists herself

What degree did you study?

I studied for a degree in orthoptics at The University of Sheffield and graduated in 2015.

How did you get your job?

I came to Guy's and St Thomas' hospital in London on placement for four weeks during my third year at university, which meant that when a job came up, I was already known to the team.

What's a typical working day like?

I work from 8am to 4pm with a clinic in the morning and afternoon. The majority of orthoptic patients are children, which means we often have a lot of fun in clinics creating games to enable us to assess their eyes. Adult patients often have more complex issues, and orthoptists can play a vital role in locating brain tumours, for example.

We are also trained at university to have other skills enabling us to contribute in many other ophthalmology clinics.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety of my workload is undoubtedly what keeps me passionate about my job. However, the feeling of being able to restore a child's sight and seeing the difference my work makes first hand is by far the best part of my job.

What are the challenges?

Every job comes with challenges and there are times when we have to accept there is nothing we can clinically do to save or restore someone's sight. However, with advancing medicine and research I expect this to happen less and less throughout my career.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree is very specific to my career. During the three years of training at university, I had 10 clinical placements meaning by the time I graduated, I had a specific knowledge base to treat most orthoptic patients.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My orthoptic career started as seeing mainly orthoptic patients with simple problems and really gaining experience on how to diagnose and manage all of my patients. I then progressed to treating patients with more complex issues, learning from more experienced staff. With time I have been able to diagnose and manage patients single-handedly and have gone on to mentor new members of staff myself.

My career ambitions include completing further studies in other areas of ophthalmology to further diversify my orthoptic skills and knowledge.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

Following on from a degree in orthoptics you can do a Masters in orthoptics. It's also possible to take Masters modules in areas of ophthalmology that you find particularly interesting and may wish to specialise in as you develop your career. I went on to do a Masters module in neuro-ophthalmology, an area which I found interesting and challenging.

My top tip would be not to rush into Masters-level study and to work for a couple of years in orthoptics to allow yourself to get an understanding of the different specialities you can further your career in.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Orthoptics is a niche career but my first tip would be to sit in clinics in the eye department of your local hospital to really understand the type of patients we see.
  • Secondly, I would suggest getting experience in the private sector, for example in an opticians. This gives you an understanding of the differences between working in the public sector and the private sector, and which would suit your personality the most.
  • Lastly, our job is very people-based and involves speaking to new people every day. Having work experience in any people-facing jobs will really aid you in your orthoptic career and is seen as an advantage when applying to university.

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