Charlotte Wisdom, lead optometrist at Specsavers Ringwood, had considered a career as a science teacher when she was a teenager – so the idea of becoming a pre-registration supervisor was very appealing.
She is currently supervising her third pre-registration optometrist – and enjoys it so much that she works between two stores in order to continue her mentoring role.
She is full of praise for her own supervisor, Ringwood’s optometrist director Bruce Fitzgerald. She recalls: ‘Bruce was very open and supportive. No matter how busy he was, he always had time for me. He said there was no such thing as a stupid question and I should never be afraid to ask anything.
‘As part of the mentoring programme I saw Bruce after every patient, and we’d have a catch-up on a daily or weekly basis. We also had longer meetings before my assessments.’
Helping other people means that you learn and develop as well
Charlotte qualified in 2013 and was offered a permanent position at Ringwood. In spring 2015, Bruce asked if she would like to be a secondary supervisor when a pre-reg started in the autumn, Charlotte was delighted to accept and mentored one or two days a week.
She says: ‘I knew exactly what was going on because I was only recently out of the process myself. But I did ask Bruce how much I should be checking on the trainee, as I didn’t want to go over the top! I had meetings with both the trainee and Bruce, and I also had meetings just with Bruce, to check that we were both on the same page.’
The following year, in September 2016, Charlotte became primary supervisor to another pre-reg, called Ely. ‘I had sole responsibility for her,’ she says.
Fortunately, she passed first time with flying colours.
‘When she passed I felt absolutely ecstatic – just as good as when I qualified as you share the journey with them.’
Charlotte was keen to continue mentoring. But as the Ringwood store didn’t take on a pre-reg in 2017, she arranged to work at Specsavers’ Poole store one day a week so she could act as secondary supervisor to their pre-reg, Hannah.
Charlotte says Bruce’s style of mentoring has influenced hers. ‘I try to be open and approachable,’ she says. ‘I spend time with them whenever I see they need help. And I always say to them, “Whatever it is, always ask” – which is exactly what Bruce used to say to me!’
She believes her supervision has improved with experience. She says: ‘The three pre-regs I’ve supervised have totally different personalities, confidence levels and styles of learning, so I’ve had to adapt my supervision style accordingly. I’m getting better at knowing how to lead them on the right path.’
She feels that being mentored opened up opportunities for her. ‘I told Bruce that I’d be interested in working in a hospital, and he encouraged me,’ she says. ‘I now work one day a week at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, where I do a paediatric clinic and a glaucoma clinic.
Following that, he asked if I’d be interested in working as an assessor for WOPEC’s glaucoma and MECs accreditation, and I’ve done that since late 2016.’
Charlotte says she plans to stay with Specsavers as she appreciates the flexibility and variety of her career. Going forward, she would like to follow in Bruce’s footsteps and become an assessor with the College of Optometrists.
She also plans to continue mentoring. ‘I really enjoy teaching people, so for me mentoring is perfect,’ she says. ‘As well as the teaching side of it, I enjoy discussing cases. I also like the pathology side, seeing if the pre-regs are ready for their assessments, and watching them progress and develop.
‘Also, helping other people means that you learn and develop as well.’
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