Optometry student placements evolve

More than 460 optometry undergraduates are returning to university after getting an insight into life as a qualified optometrist this summer with Specsavers. 

This is the eighth year of the summer placement scheme of up to six weeks, which has helped more than 3,000 optometry students in total. 

Victoria Taylor, Specsavers director of professional recruitment and retention, says: ‘We’re keen to invest as a company in the next generation of optometrists through this placement programme but it’s the time that is dedicated to each student’s needs and the relationship with the store teams that really make this scheme so successful. 

Sophie Green is one such optometry student, who completed her placement at Specsavers in Cheltenham last month.  

She explains: ‘I always knew I wanted to do something scientific and I knew I wanted to care for people too. The science fits with the eyecare theory I’ve learned in university and spending time in a store on a placement, talking to patients every day, I can really see what a difference we can make to people’s lives. I could see for myself how caring optometry is when I shadowed optometrists in Cheltenham.’ 

In non-term time during her degree, Sophie was helped by Specsavers to work in three locations: Leamington Spa, Solihull and most recently in Cheltenham. Initially this was as an optical assistant, helping customers with the pre-tests, supervised dispensing, frame merchandising and adjusting or repairing frames. But after her second year of study, Sophie was keen to get into the test room.  

She says: ‘Time at each store has been brilliant, especially the summer placement, as I can apply the theory of what I’ve learned at university in real life. I can sit in on eye tests and can ask the optometrist what they saw and what they think.’  

Far from daunting, she adds that the dedicated team that helped her set up the placement were very welcoming: ‘I met with Imogen (a Specsavers graduate manager) and Geraint, a contact lens optician and Specsavers partner, on campus and had a really lovely relaxed chat about what it was like to work for Specsavers and how the placement would work. It was clear that student welfare is a priority for the team as I really felt like I was in safe hands.’  

Sophie was in Malawi volunteering on a Cardiff university-organised eyecare trip when she organised the location and accommodation for her final placement in Cheltenham. ‘Imogen made it so easy to arrange that I could even do this when I was abroad.’ 

Sophie speaks highly of the optical team: ‘Before my first day, I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in, but it worked out the opposite way here – in just three weeks, I know there is such a family feel and I feel inspired to go on to eventually own a Specsavers store. 

After a successful placement, what is next for Sophie? She will graduate in 2020 and intends to return to the Cheltenham store for her pre-registration year and go on to work as a fully qualified optometrist there – perhaps inspiring next year’s optometry students who come to join on a placement.

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