Saturday, 28 June 2014

Halfway through

I am now halfway through my summer school placement with Boots, and learning more and more every day. Over the last couple of weeks I have had some challenging but constructive criticism, met last years summer school student and been to cover in a different store.

The great thing about the placement and the job is you never know who or what is going to walk through the door of your practice every day. The store I am at has a wide ranging customer base, lots of over 60's NHS patients (often with cataracts, glaucoma or another age related condition), to middle aged people who like the range of styles available, to people on benefits and children coming in for first few eye tests with a few emergency cases thrown in for good measure. Because of the wide range of customers it is important to be able to adapt your questioning style when doing check-ins and how you talk to customers when they collect glasses, I'm glad I've got 10 years retail experience as otherwise it can be very daunting.

I have started dispensing, just single vision at the moment, but everything has to start somewhere. Dispensing is that final stage in the customer's first visit to the store (second visit is collection) and the point when all the lifestyle questions and the recommendation from the optometrist all come together. This is when a good demonstration of all the upgrades is key, and whilst I haven't sold any yet I have done well with glasses cover. Whilst some people may see these upgrades as pushing unnecessary products to make money I have yet to see anyone promote anything that wouldn't be of use to a customer. I am really glad I can say that as pushy sales staff who slam customers with unnecessary products to hit targets or lie their own pockets really annoy me and I've seen a few.

Going to cover another branch was a good experience as it showed the consistency of approach throughout the company, even if the other branch did have an even more temperamental NCT than my usual one. Those things really are the bane of my existence at the moment. Port Talbot was small and quiet with just 2 of us and a locum in which was vastly different to Swansea with 2 optoms and about 6 of us on the shop floor. I made the most of it by having a look at other parts of the systems that I hadn't used before, like Glasses Studio, which I look forward to using soon.

Next week I have a visit to another Boots store planned, this time to see the links between a pharmacy and the opticians, and hopefully I will get a chance to speak to an audiologist as well so really see how the one health idea all comes together. I also look forward to dispensing multifocals, which at the moment seem a little daunting but then so did single vision before I did that.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Week 1 thoughts

Last Monday I started a 6 week programme with Boots on their Future Optometrist Programme. The scheme is designed to give students a flavour of retail optics and how Boots works in particular. It also acts as a 6 week interview from point of view of company and allows the student to get idea of whether Boots is right for them and how they get on with the staff where they may well be working on the pre -registration year (pre-reg for short).

My placement is in Swansea so involves a nice little train journey in the morning, although this gives me a chance to catch up on TV or books I've missed out on and catch a nap if needed.

The first impressions were good, the store is reasonably well equipped and more importantly the staff are really friendly and seem to put up with all the random questions I've been throwing at them all week. It's very strange for me to not know anything about the system or how anything works, after doing the same job for over 10 years I've worked out exactly how the systems in my current job work.

Although I had received and read the student guide to the programme I was a little surprised about doing so much work as an optical consultant and it wasn't until I went to the introductory conference in Birmingham on Thursday which put the programme into context. I'd been thinking too literally that it was all about optometry but it isn't; the optometrist is not alone - they are working as part of a team and to understand the team you need to understand the other roles. To this end I have been welcoming patients into the practice, answering the phone, adjusting glasses, running though collections, making appointments and helping with pre-screening. The amazing thing is that this isn't all optical consultants have to do; there is extra paperwork for NHS and PEARS forms, asking lifestyle questions as part of pre-screening to aid the 3 moments of truth, helping with referrals, managing emergency patients, checking in glasses and of course dispensing, with the aid of a dispensing optician for tricky dispenses. I apologise to all optical consultants and assistants I may have unwittingly looked down on, they have a vital role to play and put in a lot of hard work to ensure the branch runs smoothly.

The highlight of the week was the welcome conference in Birmingham on Thursday. This highlighted Boot's purpose "We commit to enrich the life of every person. We are a health led optician, yet care about a whole lot more." It also highlighted the 3 moments of truth which are used within the customer journey to ensure the customer gets the best possible service. I look forward to seeing the results from the customer metrics and working out ways to improve them, over the next few weeks.

I had my first review on Saturday which was a bit nerve wracking, I was confident I had done okay but am always worried that there is something I've done wrong or missed. However it passed without a hitch, I got some good feedback and a plan for the next few weeks is developing so I am looking forward to the rest of the placement, if not the early starts.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

End of second year musings

So walked out of final exam on Tuesday and it felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The first years looked a little confused as to what had just happened, but that's normal after a dispensing exam whilst the third years were a mixture of elated that they had finished and disbelief that they had finished.

Library books went back on Thursday and it was time to relax for a little while before I start my summer placements on Monday - no rest for the wicked. I'm doing two placements with Boots first and then Specsavers so it will be interesting to see how the two compare.

So what have I learned over the last year:

Contact lenses are interesting, the materials aren't that much fun (although tours round factories are) but there is so much you can do with them to help patients in a slightly different way from normal spectacle use. There is a big market out there that can really help businesses but at the same time there are risks that need to be managed.

Pharmacology offers a lot of further training paths that I may well want to explore later on in my career but there is a lot to learn for exams about drugs, doses, uses, contraindications, side effects... This made it one of the most engaging courses of the year but also one of the scariest exams.

Binocular vision really isn't that scary, maybe it's because one of my friends has a squint so I am so used to testing them that it doesn't throw me off from usual routine. Yes there are a lot of conditions that need to be managed especially in young children but if you know the risks you know what needs to be done.

Neurophysiology is a bit of an odd one, whilst I can see the uses of some of it in practice particularly the links with visual fields and agnosias, not sure how much of it I will use in future, likewise with perception.

Colour vision seems to be remarkably easy, and visual fields is useful. The main thing to remember from visual fields is that the answer isn't always glaucoma but there is a pretty good chance it is.

So lots to take forward and look forward to starting third year in a few months. Now just need to go back to waiting for exam results. Fingers crossed.