Case study

Orthoptist — Emma

Emma works in a busy hospital assessing and treating both adults and children with a range of visual problems. Find out more about her role, and her top tips for becoming a successful orthoptist

How did you get your job?

I studied for a degree in orthoptics at The University of Sheffield. While still in my final year, I applied for my job using the NHS Jobs website. My employer received my personal statement, invited me to interview and I was successful.

What's a typical working day like?

I see a huge variety of paediatric and adult patients with a range of visual problems. I often assess children in the morning, where I'm involved in the diagnosis and management of reduced vision and misalignment of the eyes. I provide patients with occlusive therapy, advice on glasses and orthoptic exercises.

In the afternoon I normally assess adults, which can include stroke patients, patients with thyroid problems or neurological diseases, and patients who have suffered nerve palsies. During these clinics I often fit prisms or occlusion to their glasses to reduce their symptoms. I sometimes assess emergency patients which can include orbital fractures or sudden onset double vision.

Alongside seeing patients, my day also involves lots of administrative duties such as writing up patient reports and letters to GPs, other hospital departments and schools. I work closely with the whole eye department to deliver the best care for my patients.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

Every appointment is different and I'm lucky to meet so many people every day. I learn so much about my patients whilst I assess and treat them - it's brilliant.

What are the challenges?

Sometimes I have to break bad news to patients. This is never easy as I always want to help them, and I can find it quite upsetting.

How is your degree relevant?

My orthoptics degree was very vocational, and the knowledge and skills I learned are entirely transferable to the workplace.

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

I've been working as an orthoptist at my current hospital for six months now. I'll be moving to a different hospital in a couple of months, to a role with more responsibilities.

In the future I'd like to be a clinical tutor and share what I've learnt with student orthoptists.

What are your top tips for becoming an orthoptist?

  • Get some work experience in an orthoptic department. Because the orthoptics degree is so vocational, I'd recommend that you take time to decide whether orthoptics is the right career choice for you. Observing an orthoptist for the day should really help you make this decision.
  • Make the most of your clinical placements at university. These are the best way to prepare for the workplace.
  • Have a rough template for job applications ready and waiting. Then, when the job that you want comes along, you can apply quickly.

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