From optical assistant to optometry student

Vanessa Vieira is an optometry student and part time optical assistant. Read on to hear about her job and her ambitions to become an optometrist.

I did a year of A levels before switching to a BTEC Level 3 extended diploma in Applied Sciences (medical), and I’m now an optometry student.  At weekends I work as an optical assistant at Specsavers.

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy the training sessions every Saturday. This enables me to learn more about the eye, contact lenses and diseases such as macular degeneration. Most of what we learn can be applied to our daily job, but = benefits me when studying to become an optometrist at university, as I can apply my knowledge.

What inspired you to start your career?

I have always been interested in medical sciences and science as a whole. It was by chance that Specsavers held a workshop at my college about studying optometry at university. The workshop gave a fantastic overview of the course and what working for Specsavers would be like. It also gave those interested direct access to work experience.

My work experience placement was helpful because all the staff were so cooperative and eager to help. Any queries I had were answered to their best possible knowledge. They ensured that I was always doing something that would help me progress. I was able to shadow clinics with optometrists and grasp what working as an optometrist involves such as communication skills, professionalism, and dexterity.

The workshop and the work experience led to my part-time role as an optical assistant at Specsavers. It was a fantastic opportunity and confirmed for me that I wanted to pursue a career in optometry so I applied for a part-time role at the Truro store.

What are your next steps?

Last September I started studying optometry at Plymouth University. I also plan on gaining experience in the optical department working in a hospital so I can compare experience from a high street store to a more clinical environment. After my time at Plymouth University, I hope to do a pre-registration year and qualify at the end of that year as an optometrist. Once qualified, I plan on staying local.

What personal qualities do you think are important for your role?

One of the qualities I found to be important for this role was how welcoming the optometrist is to the patient. It may be frightening for the patient if they have had major vision changes. Some patients may be more vulnerable due to their age or their circumstances. Therefore, it is crucial to approach every patient in a friendly manner, where they are made to feel comfortable and trust you enough to enter their personal space.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to use my time effectively, so on my commute to and from college which can be up to an hour long each way I like listening to podcasts. Recently I have been listening to ‘Stuff You Should Know’; each episode of the podcast is on a different random topic. I enjoy listening to podcasts in my own time as it enhances my general knowledge.

I like to attend the gym as often as I can. I come from a fitness-orientated family, so I am encouraged to look after my health. I also enjoy exercising as it makes my day feel far more productive and can give me an energy boost especially in the mornings.