Case study

Optometrist — Patrick Friis

Patrick explains that patients are at the heart of optometry and you must be able to relate to a wide range of people with varying eye conditions

How did you get your job?

After graduating with an optometry degree from the University of Bradford, I began studying for an MPhil, which I'm currently writing up.

I work in three different roles at the moment. Firstly in NHS clinics in a hospital eye department, which is also where I undertook my pre-registration year. I then teach at the University of Bradford, which I started doing after I completed the full-time research year of my Masters. I also work in an independent optometrist practice, which I joined when my research year was complete as they were looking for a new optometrist at the time.

What's a typical working day like as an optometrist?

I have a great work set-up at the moment with my three different roles, which means that I've plenty of variety in my working week.

At the independent practice I carry out routine eye exams, checking the health of people's eyes and assessing whether they need glasses. I also fit contact lenses and take referrals from other opticians and local GPs for patients with specific eye problems.

At the hospital I work in specialist contact lens clinics fitting lenses for people with a range of eye problems including:

  • corneal transplants;
  • people with blind, injured eyes, which we can cover with a cosmetic lens;
  • people with very high glasses prescriptions who can only get good vision with contact lenses.

I also work in paediatric clinics carrying out eye examinations for children with developmental problems.

At the University of Bradford I teach all three year groups, so I'm covering everything from the basic techniques needed to examine an eye, to the management of potentially complex eye conditions.

What do you enjoy most about being an optometrist?

I love the range of possibilities within the profession. Optometrists can work clinically, either privately with an optical practice or in a hospital for the NHS. You can pursue further clinical qualifications and work in specialist clinics alongside doctors. It's also possible to go into research or teaching at the universities that offer optometry degrees, or you could open your own practice and add the extra dimension of running a business.

At the moment I enjoy the variety my three jobs bring me, the range of different eye conditions and clinical challenges I encounter, as well as the people I get to meet - both colleagues and patients.

What are the challenges?

A huge part of optometry is interacting with, and relating to, the people you see. You need to be able to adapt easily as you might have a hyperactive five-year-old followed immediately by a 95-year-old who is registered sight impaired and is hard of hearing.

Listening and questioning skills are very important and you need to remain calm and reassuring even in the face of potentially sight-threatening emergencies.

How relevant is your degree in optometry?

A BSc Optometry is mandatory to enter the profession, so my degree was a must. It gave me the clinical knowledge and technical skills needed to start ymy journey in the profession.

How has your role developed?

I have made sure that I've experienced as many different faces of the optometry profession as possible since graduating and I am currently enjoying the variety of my work.

Looking ahead, there are options to specialise clinically and start to work alongside the doctors in their clinics at the hospital, or perhaps to open my own practice and build my own team and group of patients.

What advice can you give to others?

Make sure that you know what the profession involves. Many students are surprised to find that optometry is much more of a people-based profession than they thought.

Try to get work experience at an opticians practice and, if you can, a hospital department so you can find out first-hand if it's the right job for you.

Also consider what branches of optometry you might like to explore. Have a look at the roles that are out there and don't be afraid to try new opportunities.

Always remember that patients are at the centre of what we do. Throughout your training and when applying for jobs, don't lose sight of that and with every patient, imagine it's yourself or someone you love sat in the chair in front of you. Give every patient the standard of care you would want for them.

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