Case study

Practice manager — Jo Holmes

Jo works as practice manager and principal dispensing optician at Pilgrim Optical, an independent optometric practice. Find out how she has developed a successful career in dispensing optics

What course did you study?

I studied for a Dispensing Optics Diploma (now the Ophthalmic Dispensing - Level 6 Diploma) at City and Islington College.

How did you get your job?

When I'd finished school, I went into several optical practices with my O-level certificates to see if they could offer me a job with training. The manager of Dollond & Aitchison (now merged with Boots Opticians) told me all about being a dispensing optician and what was involved. I felt this was the right job for me, helping people. He offered me a position about two weeks later. When I qualified, I joined a small independent practice called Pilgrim Optical, where I have been for the last 30 years.

What's a typical working day like?

I provide dispensing services to patients and check jobs as they come in from the factory. I fit in manager duties in between appointments along with seeing reps and sorting out issues within the practice, be they maintenance, staff or paperwork. It keeps me on my toes. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy talking with my patients and ensuring that they are satisfied with the fit of their spectacles and other optical aids, and that they understand how to care for them.

What are the challenges?

Finding the time to fit everything in is one of the main challenges. Sometimes time scales are tricky and I can feel up against it. Coming through the pandemic these last couple of years has been particularly challenging and I have been constantly reassuring staff and patients.

In what way is your qualification relevant?

My Diploma furnished me with all the background knowledge I needed in terms of the physics of lenses, light and anatomy in order to give the best advice daily to my patients. It has also prepared me for enhanced services, so with further training I can bring these into the practice.

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

I didn't go into the practice as a manager and my role has developed over time. I have built up all the background knowledge needed to run a practice over the years, along with a network of colleagues outside the practice, and have undertaken continuing professional development to keep my knowledge up to date and relevant.

I have helped to provide education and training in my area over the years to support other aspiring dispensing opticians and have engaged with my professional body, the Association of British Dispensing Opticians. I became a board member in 2014 and am now the president, which has given me an insight into optical politics. I enjoy representing dispensing opticians and being a voice for them.

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

  • You need to be a good people person - listening is important.
  • No job is impossible, there is always a good plan B if you set your mind to it.
  • Go home every day having done your best, as that will give you the most satisfaction and enjoyment.

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