“My experiences have opened my eyes to the importance of a field of optometry”
Last name: Kelly McMullin
Placement: Pre-registered with Gillian Sheard, a member of the Hakim Group family of independent firms
School year: Pre-registration
Why I want to become an optometrist: I’ve always been interested in health care and I think it’s a great way to combine that with interacting with the general public and making a difference.
In this new series, OT asked students and pre-registered optometrists to share their stories of work experience — from shadowing days to volunteering and internships — to learn more about what can be learned from these opportunities. and on the variety of paths that optometry can lead to. To follow the series, read more about OT here.
I don’t know how I got into optometry as I don’t know anyone else on the Isle of Man who studies it. No one else at school was interested in it and I didn’t really know any optometrists. But when I was in school, I did my internship in a law firm and started working there on the weekends.
I moved in with Gillian Sheard just before I left for college. It’s nice to work in a small team. I feel well supported and I can ask anyone anything. Even if they didn’t have an answer, they would find out for me. It has a family atmosphere.
I started pre-registering with a lot of distros at first, then moved on to testing. Now I test three or four days a week and I’m just at the end of my first stage. It’s been a bit longer than usual – with life on a small island, you have to choose your skills a bit more strategically. But I saw a lot more conditions than I expected as a pre-recorder. There is a small eye department at the hospital here and that means a lot of things come into practice that I didn’t expect. I think it was a good experience and allowed me to see more.
I really had no idea what to expect in pre-registration – you’re a little shocked when you start. I don’t think people quite realize the balance that has to be struck between doing pre-recorded work, working full-time and trying to have a bit of a social life. I think I’ve found that balance now. Having a supportive group of people around you makes a big difference. It’s hard, but afterwards you watch and appreciate the experience because it will help you in the future.
I came back to where my family is, not necessarily because they are here and more because I like the setting. I know we work quite differently to people in the UK. We’re a small group of optometrists here – there aren’t very many of us – but it’s nice that when you talk about other practices you know where they are, how they work and you all know each other. To other students, I would definitely say to try other places because everywhere is different. You never know, you might end up moving somewhere a little darker.
One of the main things I like about working in a smaller area is that you build rapport with the patients and it’s nice to see familiar faces. I found it particularly gratifying to go from knowing the patients to working in the studio to now testing the same patients. It makes you very proud when these people recognize you and ask you about your background. This is definitely one of the main benefits of a smaller, more unique location.
When you’re in your pre-registration journey, I think it’s pretty hard to see outside of that because you’re focused on the next step all the time. I have found it very interesting to see the variety of conditions come into practice and I think I would like to specialize in an area of medical optometry in the future. I like working in an independent practice and I think I can see more unique things than in a High Street practice.
I think it’s really helpful to experience a range of areas in optometry. I was very grateful to have work experience, so I didn’t get so deep into pre-registration. Especially with the pandemic – I know it made it a little harder to get it while we were in college, we also had less time in clinics and missed some hospital rotations.
By explaining to my friends what I do in pre-registration and at university, they also realized the importance of optometry
A private eye clinic recently opened and I was able to go there and attend cataract surgery, which was a very good experience. I have to watch from admission to discharge. They went through everything with me, not just the operation, but what their patients learned before and after. I have since had a patient call me asking about what happened before and after the operation. It was nice to be able to answer in confidence rather than giving a classic answer. Any experience you can get, I would say go for it.
When I started college, I didn’t think about optometry any more than about eye exams. My experiences have opened my eyes to the breadth of a field of optometry and how many different opportunities there are – working in multiples, freelancers, hospitals, but also specializing in different fields. The hospital internship we had to do for pre-registration made me realize there were a lot of different paths I could take after that. Volunteering is part of it, and I would love to do that. I think optometry is a bigger field than people realize. Gaining a variety of experience is a way to open your eyes to all the different opportunities available to you.
By explaining to my friends what I do in pre-registration and at university, they also realized the importance of optometry. I think they just put it on the refractive side and didn’t realize the other aspects. It’s good to talk about optometry and pre-registration and to explain to people what we do.
I would say to other students…
I would say to anyone who is thinking of doing something a little different from what their friends are doing, or in an area they haven’t really heard of before, go for it. Gain some experience. If you don’t like it, you haven’t lost anything. If you enjoy it, you might find yourself here at the end of college and in your pre-registration. If there’s something you’re interested in, go for it. I don’t regret it at all. You may find everything a little difficult but the challenges are enjoyable and it’s rewarding at the end of the day.
The Frame, with Nick Skillicorn, Principal at Gillian Sheard Optometrists
Placement: Gillian Sheard Optometrists, part of the Hakim Group family of independent practices
Location: Douglas, Isle of Man
How many internships or shadowing opportunities do you offer per year and for how long?
We have already had three 11th grade students on internship, a dispensing optician student at the end of their pre-registration internship when their existing internship failed, then Kelly as their first optometry/professional internship at full share. . I want to take on others, both dispensing opticians and optometry students in particular.
Why does the firm hire student optometrists?
As cliché as it sounds, we’ve all been there. We have all been students and therefore all need to give back to the system that facilitated our education, hopefully passing on our good habits and practices to the next generation. By the way, living on the Isle of Man there is a real shortage of medical professionals in particular and local optometry professionals are in short supply. While I would like to see any student progress through the pre-registration year and achieve their fully qualified status, I am particularly keen to do so with candidates who remain local (not necessarily within my job) but who benefit my local community for the benefit of future generations.