You’ve studied eye care at university for around three years, participated in a period of clinical training and finally you’ve graduated! What happens next?
Graduating doesn’t mean you can immediately work as an optometrist. All optometry students must go through a pre-registration programme to become a registered optometrist.
You should finish Year 3 in June and probably start your pre-reg year in August. You will spend a year doing your pre-reg training placement. Then, take your final practical examination – OSCE. After passing it, you become a qualified optometrist. However, there are more career paths in optometry than people think.
Majority of optometrists are directly involved in clinical practice, working in corporate or independent optometry. Both involve carrying out eyesight examinations, giving advice, prescribing corrective spectacles or contact lenses, as well as diagnosing eye disease, underlying health conditions and when needed, referring patients to the GP or an ophthalmologist. The difference between the two is shown below.
- Corporate optometry: corporate optometrists usually work in large companies. There are some well-known national chains in the UK, such as Specsavers, Boots Opticians, Vision Express and Optical Express. There are numerous smaller regional chains. The practice size can be varied and staffed by a large team. There may be chances to relocate between practices, too.
- Independent optometry: independent practices have established a loyal patient base. As you are working in a small group, you will be your own boss and have a flair for business.
NHS or private hospital optometrist
If you are looking to work in a fast paced and busy environment, you can also work in a hospital, treating patients in need of urgent attention. You will be required to work and cooperate with ophthalmologists as a team. This will bring more opportunities to discover a wide variety of conditions or manage difficult patients, such as those having cataract or macular degeneration.
Vision science researcher
If you would like to discover more about optometry and bring new knowledge to the profession, you can consider being a researcher. Usually a PhD is required to be a researcher which will take around three to four years to achieve. Being an optometrist researcher gives you a chance to show everyone the scientific potential of optometrists and advancement of vision care. Your work will be published and used to improve clinical procedures, protocols or even functional therapies. You will also attend and present your research at national and international conferences. This will lead to a more optimized clinical practice and a better professional position.
In order to support those who are unable to come into examining rooms, domiciliary optometrists will visit patients in their homes, care homes, day care centres or community centres. Such patients may have physical or mental disabilities, learning difficulties, arthritis etc. Therefore, you should be flexible when examining the patient and adapt your techniques as required. As you are having a varied domiciliary customer base, it is more likely that you will see more pathology than store based optometrists.
You received great supervision during your pre-reg year and would like to give it back the community, then it is your time. Each pre-reg student will need a supervisor who has been qualified for at least three years and no supervisor can have more than two trainees under their supervision at any one time. There are different supervision types and you can refer back to College of Optometrists.
Besides, you can always continue professional development. If you are interested in the higher qualification as an optometrist, please stay tuned and read my next blog.