Emma works as an optometrist, mainly in a research setting but also as a locum in community practice. Find out about the rewards and challenges of both areas of work

How did you become an optometrist?

After studying for a degree in optometry at Ulster University, I carried out my pre-registration year at a Specsavers store in Edinburgh. The experience and skills that I learned during my time there helped me to get my current job as a locum optometrist.

Throughout my degree I always had a keen interest in the research side of optometry, which I expressed during the application and interview process for my current research position.

A degree in optometry is essential before progressing into the pre-registration year to become a fully-qualified optometrist

What's a typical day like as an optometrist?

Working in a community practice I'm involved in carrying out detailed eye examinations on the general public. This includes measuring whether the patient requires glasses and examination of their ocular health, as well as checking many other ocular functions including how the eyes work together.

Following this, I sometimes need to carry out additional tests for further investigation or refer the patient to another healthcare professional. In addition, I fit and supply a range of contact lenses.

In my research position I'm part of a team examining children's vision in special educational schools. A typical day involves developing research protocols and documents prior to carrying out data collection. During school time I'm involved in data collection for the research study at local special educational schools. I find this role particularly exciting as I can help to impact on the future of optometry in practice.

What do you enjoy most about optometry?

In community practice, I enjoy working with a diverse range of patients. Each patient is unique and I enjoy tailoring the eye exam to suit each individual.

In my research position I like contributing to the current literature to try and improve everyday clinical practice, and ultimately help patients.

What are the challenges?

At times in practice I come across ocular pathology, which is hard to identify and makes management of the patient difficult. However, this creates an opportunity for further learning through correspondence from ophthalmologists or reading textbooks.

Was your optometry degree essential for the job?

A degree in optometry is essential before progressing into the pre-registration year to become a fully-qualified optometrist.

How has your role developed?

There are always changes taking place to everyday practice, which allow me to increase my knowledge and develop new skills. For example, optometrists are gaining more responsibility for managing eye conditions in clinical practice to alleviate pressure on hospital clinics.

Also, advances in technology mean we can now detect ocular disease more readily and decide on an appropriate management plan based on our findings.

In the future I hope to complete a PhD in optometry and continue my career in research as I believe that research greatly impacts on how we carry out everyday practice and is necessary to improve how we manage our patients.

How can I get a job in optometry?

Work hard as degree entry requirements are high for optometry. The course itself and pre-registration year require a lot of hard work and commitment.

You should also develop your interpersonal and communication skills as you need to be able to talk to people and interact well with others in this job.

Finally do some work experience and carry out your own research to find out as much as you can about the job before applying.

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