Over the past six months, final year Deakin University optometry student Yvonne Koh has shared her experiences as she undertakes her clinical placement with Specsavers. Here, she concludes her monthly blog with a reflection on the end of her time as a university student as she moves towards a future as an optometrist.

I can hardly believe that six months of clinical placement has come to an end. It has been such an amazing experience and journey. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity by Deakin and Specsavers to be able to undertake placement at Specsavers Traralgon and Karingal. It has given me invaluable knowledge and understanding of the industry, as well as a taste of what it will be like to be out there practising as a graduate optometrist.

During placement, I have been able to see over 150 patients and perform more than 100 eye exams on my own. The hands-on experience and real encounters with patients and customers in a clinic has allowed me to develop and grow from a student to a budding optometrist.

I have spent the last month seeing more and more patients and learning to better manage my time. I had to juggle increasing my clinical efficiency, completing weekly online case quizzes for university, and lots of job interviews in preparation for graduation.

I found the recruitment process with Specsavers very smooth and supportive. I never felt alone throughout the whole process. The Specsavers Professional Development team member who was working with me discussed all the positions available and gave me step-by-step guidance on how to go about applying for those positions. She was always on hand to discuss and answer my questions and concerns.

This was a big decision to make, so I took my time going through all my options. I thought about location, demographic, the store’s team, expectations, and opportunity for personal growth and learning. For me, I wanted to ensure that I chose a store where I would fit in with the team’s culture but at the same time would be pushed to achieve my full potential and be the best optometrist that I can be.

It was such a tough decision to choose between stores – I felt torn when meeting with a new store’s team and partners because they were so lovely and accommodating – but in the end I secured a role with Specsavers Frankston. This has really signified the approaching end of university and the start of my career.

As a whole, I can say that I have grown from an inexperienced student to a more knowledgeable soon-to-be graduate optometrist. I encountered patients from all walks of life and learned to treat each with a tailored approach – from learning how to better differentiate conditions to suggesting management options for each patient. I was very much encouraged to be more independent and make my own decisions.

I remember the words of one of my supervisors: “Don’t be just another optometry student. Be an optometrist who looks at each patient as an individual, taking into account their expectations and needs to help them to achieve their best quality of life.” This has really stuck with me, and I intend to apply this to every patient I meet.

I have done far more than I could ever have imagined over the course of my placement. I have met so many amazing people in the industry, and have also made new lifelong friends and colleagues.

My advice to other students about to embark on their clinical placement journey is to be punctual and organised, plan ahead, and come prepared to discuss your expectations and what you want to achieve on placement with your supervisor. The key to a successful placement is earning the respect of the team and patients you are to work with by being professional and willing to help out.

The team I have worked with at both Traralgon and Karingal have been so accommodating and supportive; they were willing to give me their time to teach and support me, optimising my clinical placement experience. You honestly get back what you put in – if you give it your best then you will get the best clinical experience.

Good luck and enjoy every moment, because it goes by in the blink of an eye!

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