Experiencing regional life during your placement

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Jacqueline Tran is a graduate optometrist at Specsavers Wagga Wagga. She studied at Bachelor of Optometry at Deakin University, graduating in 2019. In her first blog, Jacqueline explores how her decision to study regionally and take up a regional placement influenced her decision to take a graduate job in southeastern New South Wales. 

If you had asked me three years ago where I thought I would end up working when I finished my degree, the answer would not have been ‘regional’.

Growing up in metro Sydney, that was the only life I knew. I’m more familiar with the peak hour traffic, motorways, large skyscrapers, and multi-level shopping centres of the city than I am of the slower nature of the regions.

My exposure to regional life began when I moved to Waurn Ponds to study my optometry degree at Deakin University. And one of the biggest influences that has led me to where I am today would definitely be my clinical placement during my last year of studies. I decided it was best for me to experience firsthand both metro and regional settings and get the most from the opposite working lives that they had to offer.

I am grateful for both experiences, as they have both shaped the skills and my approach to how I practice optometry. They have given me insight into what working life in the respective environments would be – and if you have the opportunity, I highly recommend all students still studying or on placement to undertake a regional placement and get a taste for that lifestyle.

The simple fact of moving away from home is probably the biggest factor that influences
someone to move regionally. Statistically speaking, a majority of graduates would be in the same age bracket as me, in the 20s to 30s. Being brought up in a traditional Asian household, moving away from home at my age is uncommon and was a difficult concept for my parents to understand.

After two and a half years away from home for university, the decision to go regional was easier on their hearts and mind. I enjoyed my freedom and discovered my independence – and once you get a taste of that, you don’t want to go back to living under someone else’s roof!

You may hear this a lot about being a graduate, but you are indeed a small fish in a big pond. You have all the minimum skills and the up-to-date knowledge to practice optometry but I had to ask myself, ‘Is this small fish ready to apply all her skills and clinical knowledge in practice? Does she have the confidence to prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, hard contact lenses, and manage pathology? Does she have the confidence to see kids, treat red eye emergencies, perform foreign body removals? And what about ophthalmology? Who do you make your referrals to if your closest ophthalmologist is a long drive for your patients?’

I pondered all these questions over and over, but my answer was still always quite clear. I wanted to feel confident in my abilities but also to feel confident in myself. In my first four months of working regionally, I’ve seen the majority of what I have listed above and it has really improved my skills and confidence.

I think the value of what I’ve learned and experienced in my regional placement will continue to have a positive impact during the next few years as an early career optometrist.

Stay tuned for Jacqueline’s second blog on her experiences of working in a regional location.

More in the Specsavers Graduate Program Blog series
Why I went regional – a graduate perspective
Imposter syndrome as a graduate
Time management in a clinical environment 
Supported on a new journey
Moving forward with mentorship
Side by side in the second year
Through the eyes of a graduate optometrist
Three days of professional development
Practising rural optometry with a friend
Venturing into leadership with the Year Two Project

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