I graduated from Queensland University of Technology in 2015. After leaving high school, I was interested in health but was unsure of what I wanted to do. At the time, optometry was a small profession and I didn’t know much about it but decided to apply for it. I had been wearing glasses since I was 5 years old, so I thought it would be an interesting career.

As a graduate optometrist, I wanted to gain as much practical experience as possible. Specsavers Cannonvale provided a unique opportunity, being a high volume practice situated between a tourist area and a regional farming town. As a result, we have a wide scope of practice and I have gained confidence in managing a variety of conditions from binocular vision anomalies to microbial keratitis and corneal foreign bodies. We’ve developed a good working relationship with local general practitioners, and they often refer patients with red eyes, headaches or unusual visual symptoms. Some patients drive up to an hour for an eye test. There is also a significant ageing population so I see plenty of age-related eye conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. We also work in close collaboration with local primary schools and have conducted a few vision screenings. Since I started here, we have developed a reputable professional standing within the community. It is always humbling to know that general practitioners, school teachers and their families choose to have their eyes tested with us.

Being in a regional area, our patients often have limited access to healthcare (medical centres are often booked out and the nearest ophthalmologist is in Mackay, an hour-and-forty-minute drive away). Many patients are apprehensive about making the journey to see a specialist. I have learned to exercise my clinical judgement to decide whether a case could be monitored with us or whether a drive to Mackay was warranted.

Relocating to and working in a regional area can be challenging but I’ve never had any real fears. Cannonvale is five minutes away from Airlie Beach which is the departure point for the Whitsunday Islands and Hamilton Island. Although it is a small town, there are plenty of activities to do and events to attend, and the local people are warm and friendly. My mentor, Fiona, has been very supportive throughout the program. She is always happy to answer my questions and discuss any cases I am uncertain about. I’m very grateful to have had her as my mentor.

Learning to become autonomous has been an invaluable experience both professionally and personally. I would highly recommend Cannonvale to any graduate looking for exposure to a variety of challenging clinical cases as well as an opportunity for personal growth.