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 describes how practising in store differs from university and lists some of the clinical lessons she has learned in her first few weeks.

It has been over a month since I started my rural placement at Specsavers Traralgon. With Christmas fast approaching, the store has been bustling with festive cheer. Even though December has proven to be a busy time of year, I now feel that I have settled in and am getting the hang of the store’s flow.

I started off my placement observing while my supervisor, Josie Mills, conducted clinical examinations. However, as the weeks went by, I slowly began performing parts of the patient examinations myself.

I also practised using the automatic phoropter on store staff members. Admittedly, most of the staff were quite straightforward to refract, with one even being completely plano in both eyes, but challenges did present themselves as well.

I had my first tough refraction the other day. The staff member I was testing wore single vision glasses, so I didn’t expect the refraction to be too difficult. Little did I know that I would see a scissoring reflex and oil droplets while performing retinoscopy.

I learned that when testing patients with high amounts of astigmatism, I needed to be flexible in restructuring the refraction process taught in university. By using bigger dioptric steps and different vision charts that allowed the patient to more confidently and easily compare lenses, I learned I could adapt and cater the refraction to the patient so that together we could more efficiently reach an optimal outcome.

This month also marked Josie’s five years’ long service milestone at Specsavers. It was nice to see Specsavers recognising the achievements of each individual’s hard work, effort and dedication.

In the short time I have known Josie, I have learned many lessons about how to become a better optometrist and health practitioner. She has always been very patient with me and knows exactly what to say to encourage me to continue growing and improving myself.

Clinical residential placement has been an amazing experience; I have been immersed in invaluable real-life work experience. It has, however, been tough trying to juggle placement, online university curriculum, work and leisure. I definitely think that balance is key – it’s just a matter of working out how to achieve that balance.

This will be my last blog entry for 2017, and I think it calls for a reflection on the year so far. For me, this includes stepping out into a real practice and outside my comfort zone – a transition away from a university setting and practising on fellow students to seeing new and unknown patients.

Funnily enough, this year has also seen Specsavers Australia step into a new arena with the introduction of audiology. In addition, Specsavers stepped up its commitment to exceed customer expectations with the introduction of OCT.

2018 looks to be an exciting and innovative year. Merry Christmas everyone and have a happy New Year. I will see you again in 2018!

Previous: Training and first day in clinic
Next: Christmas, case reports and clinical forums