Being a WOPEC assessor opens doors

Becoming an assessor for WOPEC (Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre) not only helps to upskill optometrists in key areas, but can also lead to some fantastic career development opportunities – as two Specsavers partners found out.

Judy Lea, optometrist director at Specsavers Longton (Staffordshire), became a WOPEC assessor in 2010, and a lead assessor in 2013 (although she still works as a general assessor as well). She believes her WOPEC work has helped her career to progress.

She says: ‘I’m a head of EOS [enhanced optical services] for Specsavers, and I probably wouldn’t be doing that if I wasn’t doing my WOPEC assessor roles, as they were interested in people who were already involved in things like assessing, training and accrediting.

‘I also included being a WOPEC assessor in my relevant experience when I applied to be a College of Optometrists pre-registration assessor.’

In 2017, Judy successfully applied to be a CAVA assessor (Level 3 Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievement), which means she is able to assess DES (Diabetic Eye Screening) learners. Again, she used examples from her WOPEC assessor background as part of her application.

She says: ‘I had to demonstrate that I was able to assess and also adapt my assessment as needed, so I used my WOPEC experience and examples. It was really useful.’

Straightforward process

Becoming a WOPEC assessor, Judy says, was straightforward. ‘I just had to shadow a couple of WOPEC assessments,’ she says. ‘To begin with, I shadowed the lead assessor, then I marked at the same time as him and we compared marks after the candidate had left the room. Towards the end of the day, we switched and I did the assessing with the lead assessor shadowing me. It was just two sessions of that, and when the lead assessor was happy, I was signed off as a WOPEC assessor.’

As a lead assessor, she sets up the assessments with WOPEC, checks the dates and puts them on the WOPEC website. She arranges to have the relevant equipment delivered and sets it up, gives a short presentation to the candidates,oversees the general assessors and helps with trainee assessors, and finally puts all the day’s results on a spreadsheet.

Her WOPEC work is around north west England and Staffordshire, where she is based. ‘It’s about once a month on average, but very ad hoc,’ she says. ‘You might do quite a few one month and other months you won’t do many.’

Judy decided to become an assessor to do something different to testing and to give something back to the profession that had given her so much. But she recommends the WOPEC role for many other reasons, too.

‘You get to know your local team of WOPEC assessors, so there’s a lot of peer-to-peer support and it builds your professional network. It develops you personally: there’s no point assessing if you aren’t up-to-date with your own knowledge, so you have to stay current. And you learn from the candidates! Sometimes you’ll give a candidate a hypothetical situation and when they respond, you think, “I like the way they explained that to the patient. I’ll pinch that!” I feel it makes you a better optometrist.

She concludes: ‘I enjoy assessing.I’ve always been told I’m quite laid back, nice and fair as an assessor. I enjoy putting people at ease as much as I can – particularly when they’re in stressful exam or assessment situations.’

A different skill set

Tom Crowther, optometrist director at Specsavers Urmston (Manchester), became a WOPEC assessor in 2015. He now assesses at accreditation events for MECS (minor eye conditions service) and glaucoma around the north west.

He says: ‘I wanted to get involved in assessing as it was interesting development and gave me a different skill set. It was also really good in terms of helping to drive forward our EOS strategy.’

Like Judy, he believes his WOPEC assessor role led to other career opportunities, as he became a lead assessor both for Specsavers’ Cert 3 (Level 3 Certificate for Ophthalmic Dispensing Assistants) and the company’s EOS Diploma (an 18-month course designed to upskill clinical assistants working in stores with EOS contracts, leading to a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Healthcare Science).

Tom says: ‘The skills base from being a WOPEC assessor got me into that assessment mindset. The role also opened up a networking platform for the professional services side of things.

‘From some of the connections I made, I ended up doing quite a bit of work through professional development in terms of other training courses and upskilling the profession.

‘There are quite a lot of opportunities internally because we’re trying to build the teams of assessors both for Cert 3 and the EOS diploma. It’s really good to have WOPEC assessor on your CV as it opens the doors to joining those teams and helping the business in a wider sense. I’d definitely recommend it.’

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