The rural road: Tristan Fernandez on working in regional Victoria as graduate

30 August 2023

Tristan Fernandez has always been interested in working in smaller communities and making a difference in the lives of his patients. It’s one of the reasons he took on a regional location as a graduate, and why he continues to love working outside of the major cities.

“During the final six months of my Master of Optometry at Deakin University, I was always keen on completing placement with Specsavers and was fortunate enough be accepted for the full six months at Specsavers in Horsham where I now work,” he says.

“I was also able to shadow some ophthalmologists which operate out of Bendigo and Stawell, which was a real highlight of placement and helped to understand the challenges that rural specialists face.”

“I chose Specsavers because I absolutely love the fact that the business remains very much patient focused. Having access to OCT on every patient is a huge aspect of why I decided to pursue graduate employment with the organisation, as it has helped me to recognise, diagnose and monitor a number of ocular pathologies which I otherwise may have missed.

“I have also found that the staff and partners at my store to be a joy to work with and almost feel like a second family at this point. It really made moving from placement to full time employment almost feel seamless, as it honestly just felt like another day on placement my first full day.”

Tristan, who grew up in regional Victoria, always knew that one he would work in a rural practice.

“It was always something I wanted to do, because from first-hand experience I know that passionate healthcare professionals are of a huge benefit to the community. There is also a level of independence given to you in rural practice, and you will find your confidence in diagnosis and management will grow very quickly due to the varied pathology encountered,” he says.

He was also blown away by the support and mentoring he received as part of the Specsavers graduate program.

“The graduate experience was initially very daunting as it can feel quite odd going from full time study to suddenly being a full independent optometrist, but I have found the support from both my peers in Horsham as well as the graduate team at Specsavers to be amazing in helping ease the transition,” he says.

“Seeing the varied pathology that presents in rural practice has been incredible and is a huge reason why I would encourage current students to consider rural practice. On my first week of placement, I encountered a retinal detachment and since graduating even encountered two detachments in the same day! I have been able to see pathologies ranging from choroidal melanoma to bacterial keratitis and everything in between. It is really rewarding to be able to utilize all that fresh knowledge from university in order to optimise outcomes for patients.”

He also says the ongoing support provided as a graduate through the program, has made a big difference to the start of his career,

“I find that the graduate events, such as the professional developments days that Specsavers holds are some of the best parts of the graduate program.

“Being able to see old friends from university, share knowledge and get expert advice has been essential in continuing my development as an optometrist. I also have found the graduate team to be very supportive, and they are always willing to give advice and help when it is needed which is something that I have really appreciated during my time with Specsavers.”