Judy Lea compares old and new style pre-registration supervision in her latest blog…
August can be seen as “pre-registration optometrist month”. Like many practices, we will soon welcome a new pre-registration student, fresh from University and our existing pre-registration student prepares for her OSCEs.
I vividly remember my pre-registration year as I was fortunate to have a fantastic supervisor, who molded me into the optometrist I am today. I made friend with all the practice team and still keep in touch with many of them now, years later. But it was a very steep learning curve! My biggest lesson happened when the receptionist pointed out that I may have come out of University with a very good degree, but that made no difference to anyone else, as they all worked as a team. If the phone needed answering or a drink needed making we all helped each other, regardless of our job title.
Universities are great at teaching the correct theory, but pre-reg realise that in practice, patients very rarely conform to theory. The best learn to adapt and think on their feet. It is akin to having pieces from three different jigsaws and working out which ones you need to make the picture.
A pre-reg year can be one of the hardest, and most rewarding years, for both the students and supervisors, in terms of both professional and personal development. I wonder if we should take a lesson from orthoptists, who spend four weeks each term in varying hospital placements. When they finally graduate, they have been working and have been assessed in the position for which they are qualifying.
From a pre-reg point of view, as students are suddenly completing full eye examinations alone, without supervision and other students there, it can feel quite scary. Pre-reg have to make decisions alone and at the same time come across as confident to the patient sat in the consulting chair. They have to get used to working 7 hours a day, plus commuting time. Some are shocked at the level of pathology that they are exposed to and how much patients delay seeking timely attention. One thing that we impress on our students is to be organised, keep log books and make notes from day one. If they see something that they may want to use for their future competencies to go home and read up on it and not wait until the night before their College Assessor’s visit. We teach them to treat every patient in their consulting chair, whoever they are, as they would want someone else to treat their own family. Also, they need to build relationships and friendships with the whole practice team, who will often cheer them on, as everyone wants to help them succeed.
Optometry is certainly changing, so we need to think how we educate future optometrists to prepare them for the full scope of primary eyecare, with closer relationships with local ophthalmologists, eye hospitals and general practitioners.
I don’t think anyone can predict their career five years ahead. I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to how optometry was when I started. Checking someone’s fields during my pre-reg year involved a black cloth and a stick that we moved around (Bjerrum fields). We didn’t have computers and were lucky if the previous optometrist’s handwriting was legible. We have definitely progressed for the better.
I wish all the pre-registration well in their future careers. Optometry is a fantastic profession, with a promising future ahead of it. It has certainly been a great career for me and hopefully I can give something back by supporting my pre-registration students, who are the optometrists of the future.
Judy Lea is optometrist director of Specsavers Longton.
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