Facing challenges with helping hands

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Early career optometrist Richard Cheng works at Specsavers Nowra Stockland in New South Wales and graduated from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) with a Master of Clinical Optometry in 2019. In his second blog, Richard looks at the challenges and opportunities of his first year of practice. 

Your graduate year is full of firsts – from starting in a new workplace, and in my case, living in a new town. Luckily, I have the opportunity to work among an extremely large team across two stores in Nowra. This means I’ve been able to w connect with a large group of staff and widen my social circle having moved regionally.

It also means that I have an extended group of optometrists as my colleagues, which has been incredibly helpful in my first year, with plenty of people to bounce ideas and opinions off. Through this, I have been able to grow clinically with help available around every corner.

The ‘open-door policy’ at Nowra means that whenever I faced a clinical challenge, that I had the assurance of a colleague for the opinion or advice right – even when my patient is sitting in front of me. This has given me greater confidence in managing my patients, and consequently means I don’t go home and lose sleep! Especially as I’m one of those people that needs the answer or solution, or I will obsess and try to hunt down the answer until it puts my mind at ease!

The Graduate Program that Specsavers offers to early career optometrists is fantastic in laying out the foundation that helps you grow to become the best practitioner you can be. The Induction session that’s run at the beginning of the first year really frames and runs through the A-to-Z of everything you need to know to get straight into consulting confidently. From in-room communication to dispensing to contact lenses to Medicare to therapeutic prescribing – you name it, it was covered.

The introduction of OCT across Specsavers practices nationwide was also extremely reassuring as a graduate optometrist. Throughout university, the academic theory is perfected and for this piece of modern technology to be accessible to all patients at Specsavers for their eyecare needs gave me the confidence to know that I would be delivering the best care in the consulting room to optimise patient outcomes.

One of the biggest clinical challenges for my cohort, and for me, is being a graduate optometrist in 2020 – during COVID-19. The pandemic has shaken the world and it definitely made the first few months of practicing quite interesting.

However, during this period it was so overwhelmingly rewarding to be able to help patients with urgent eyecare needs during a difficult time. For Specsavers to be ‘open for care’ in a limited capacity gave patients the reassurance that any urgent concerns could be addressed in a safe manner.

Other challenges I faced were breaking bad news and referral logistics such as appointment making, and who and where to send a referral for specific needs. But, being a player of such a remarkable team at Nowra has given me the confidence to develop my skills, while always knowing advice is on hand if I need it.

More in the Specsavers Graduate Program Blog series
Outreach from the good wi-fi spot
Why I went regional – a graduate perspective
Imposter syndrome as a graduate
Time management in a clinical environment
Experiencing regional life during placement
Never a dull moment in regional practice
What I’ve learned in my first year as a grad
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
Practicing rural optometry with a friend
Venturing into leadership with the Year Two Project

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