Patrycja Zelazny from Specsavers Taylors Lakes in Victoria describes what day-to-day life as a first-year Specsavers Graduate Optometrist entails, and what being part of Specsavers’ ‘Transforming Eye Health’ mission means to her.  

It is said that the first two years of practice are the most formative years of an optometrist’s career, where habits are developed that will shape your personal style and form the foundations of the practitioner that you will become. As a final year optometry student, I was apprehensive about what lay ahead post-graduation; after years of study I was about to be released into the working world to practise autonomously for the first time. However, I have found that the Specsavers Graduate Program recognises the importance of a strong support network when starting your career, and ensures graduates have a seamless transition from student life to practising optometrist.

The program takes a holistic approach to career development in the form of regular graduate workshops. This aims to develop well-rounded practitioners by improving communication, teamwork and interpersonal skills, in addition to covering optometry-related topics.

Ophthalmologist visits are another invaluable part of the program. The experience allows us to branch out our support network and build close working relationships outside of the clinic. By working with ophthalmologists that specialise in different areas, we are able to target our referrals for the best possible patient outcomes.

As part of the program, my mentor and I have time dedicated once a week where we discuss interesting and challenging cases, in addition to setting weekly and long-term goals. These meetings ensure I track the progress of my goals regularly, stay accountable and can openly discuss any concerns.

I work in a store with up to five optometrists working at any given time. Our team has a culture that encourages continual learning and development though the regular sharing of interesting and challenging cases. Additionally, inter-practitioner observation is encouraged where I am exposed to different practice styles and receive constructive feedback on my own in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

The support of the team has given me confidence in broadening my scope of practice to include myopia control, paediatrics and foreign body removal. All of these areas were daunting at the beginning of my career, but have since become part of my daily practice. This has led to me becoming a more confident practitioner, although on occasion I may still call on more experienced colleagues’ expertise when dealing with challenging cases.

Our practice is fitted with an OCT, which has been an invaluable tool that has assisted me with efficiency and confidence in diagnosis and decision making. In particular, it has helped me align with the RANZCO referral pathways and more effectively triage patients that require ophthalmological care. The additional information provided by the OCT has increased my confidence in diagnosing glaucoma and other pathology, which, in turn, has broadened my scope of practice as I am now more comfortable managing these patients. This would have been more challenging to do without the technology. The integration of the Oculo electronic referral platform into our practice management system also allows for effective communication with other healthcare professionals and efficient storage and retrieval of referrals, facilitating more effective record-keeping.

I am grateful to be contributing towards the Specsavers Transforming Eye Health mission where I can be an active part of lowering the horrifying statistic that 50% of glaucoma patients go undiagnosed. Offering technology such as OCT to patients as a standard part of their consultation at no additional cost can help prevent blindness in people from all walks of life and socioeconomic status. This mission aims to ensure all members of society are able to receive quality eye care, which runs parallel with my personal belief that quality healthcare should be equally available to everyone.

More in the Specsavers Graduate Program Blog series
Supported on a new journey
Moving forward with mentorship
Side by side in the second year
Through the eyes of a graduate optometrist
The benefits of ‘going regional’
Graduate Induction – the first steps
Three days of professional development
Practising rural optometry with a friend
Venturing into leadership with the Year Two Project