In this monthly blog, final year Deakin University optometry student Yvonne Koh shares her experiences as she undertakes her clinical placement with Specsavers. This month, she discusses her transition to a metropolitan practice for the second half of her placement and the importance of considering each patient as an individual.

February marked the start of my metropolitan placement at Specsavers Karingal and the halfway mark of my six-month clinical placement. Transitioning from a rural practice to a metropolitan one has proven to be surprisingly smooth.

Before starting at my new placement I was a bit worried that I would not quickly adapt and adjust to the busy metropolitan setting. I had expected it to be a fast-paced clinical environment where patients would have less time to spare and would want to be in and out of the store quickly. To my surprise, I found the pace to be similar to Specsavers Traralgon, the rural store where I spent the first half of my placement.

This consistency proved to me that each store, no matter where you go, shares the same Specsavers values and vision in providing “the best value eye care to everyone, simply, clearly and consistently”. Each store may vary slightly in how they run, but the core culture remains the same. This also showed me that the general public take their health seriously, whether it be at a busy metropolitan shopping centre or a country practice. It was nice to see that patients genuinely wanted to take the time to understand and ask questions regarding their eye health.

I was also under the impression that a metropolitan setting would mean that patients would care more about getting new glasses and coming in to check their prescription, but I can say that I have witnessed just as much ocular pathology during my time at Specsavers Karingal as in Traralgon. It is pleasing to see that more and more patients are coming to see the optometrist as their first point of call for ocular health. For example, I had expected to see more foreign bodies in a rural setting but have already seen three foreign body removals in the first week of my metro placement!

The start of the new term meant a whole new array of university assessments to juggle along with the placement itself. One such assessment required students to present a clinical conundrum online to their peers and teachers. My case was based on a difficult and uncertain diagnosis of amblyopia I had seen in a child during my Karingal placement. The difficulty presented in a lesion at the posterior pole, making me question whether the sensory deprivation and reduced vision in one eye was due to an amblyogenic factor such as strabismus, the lesion, or a mixture of both.

This case showed me that everything is not as black and white as you are taught at university. There is not always a clear-cut diagnosis and treatment pathway for each individual. Healthcare is a very personalised and tailored field where you have to look at each and every patient as an individual, taking into account their expectations, motivations and personal situation. You may have the ideal management and advice to give, but you must also consider each individual realistically and holistically. This personalised approach also ties in with my Specsavers retail training, which has helped me to fully engage each patient using the six CREATE capabilities (Coach, Relate, Enquire, Adapt, Teach and Engage) to better meet their needs and exceed their expectations.

I have really enjoyed my clinical placement experience so far. I must admit that it has been challenging and forced me out of my comfort zone a few times. However, I can definitely say that I have gained and am still gaining invaluable knowledge and experience that is continually shaping me into a better optometrist and healthcare provider.

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