Matthew is a student dispensing optician (DO) in the final year of his ophthalmic dispensing course at ABDO College. Read on to find out about life as a DO and how Matthew combines study with work.

I would say there is no typical day as a dispensing optician. Of course, there is routine in terms of dispensing patients after their eye examination, checking spectacles ensuring they meet British standards, assessing why a patient is not getting on with their spectacles and then of course for people who have an eye emergency, ensuring they are seen or referred according to our local pathways.

Dispensing is very involved, especially with people who are new to spectacle wearing. You have to build a rapport quickly and be understanding of their needs whilst managing their expectations. This can be emotional for both the patient and yourself, especially when you connect with them. I have learnt a great deal about my patients just through naturally flowing conversation and it enables me to provide the help and support they need. This doesn’t always result in the dispensing of spectacles; it could be a simply referral for some home help.

As a student, you are always looking out for a case study for your exams. These can be straight forward, but I like those that are more challenging, or different to the norm.

Although as a student, you have a supervisor, you still have responsibility due to your role and being registered. This can be simply speaking to an optical assistant and advising them on particular measurements or taking over an ocular emergency.

In truth, my typical day ranges from one extreme to the next, challenging whilst educating and rewarding.

What do you start with every day?

Usually with a chocolate croissant and a coffee made by my lovely wife, Angela. Normally at work, I get in usually half hour before my start time. This allows me to catch up on emails, store alerts, any change overs and review of any patients that have been booked specifically to see me. And then a team brief of the day ahead.

During the week, I have regular meetings with my supervisor, not only to sign off case studies, dispensing tasks or practical timetable, but to discuss where I am in my progression, with my exams and also about the store in general and non-registrant colleagues that may need some further training.

What do you love about your job?

Anyone who knows me knows I am extremely passionate about my job. My favourite thing is the patients, even those who may not be as happy (we have all had them). In fact, I probably love those patients the most, because I’m usually able to turn the circumstances and their issues around so that by the end of it, we are all having a joke and laugh.

I love providing patient care. Being a listening ear, being someone to talk to, being someone who changes a nose pad for someone who is just visiting the area or finding lenses that will help with patient’s needs and requirements.

I also enjoy training new optical assistants with product knowledge and the practical skills of fitting and dispensing spectacles and get them excited for what could be a promising career ahead of them should they wish to proceed.

What are the challenges?

 We all face challenges on a daily basis. This could be from trying to fit a child in to repair or replace their spectacles, to someone who needs new spectacles within 2 days.

A challenge I found was fitting in revision to resit two exams from year 2 (due to ill-health on the day), whilst completing final year assignments, PQP case studies and revising for final year exams, theory and practical. But I am pleased to say, with the support of my family, friends and work colleagues, I have been able to do this.

The biggest challenge is the current pandemic, COVID. With the changing of rules of the last two years and grading the urgency on patent needs a traffic light basis, this in turn has caused a demand that outstrips supply. The challenge is maintaining high standards, maintaining patient satisfaction, all whilst all of us are playing catch up and whilst keeping everyone safe.

How do you combine work and study?

When I took on this opportunity, I knew and set my expectations of few holidays, if any at all. By doing this, I managed my time reasonably well and for unexpected events, such as moving house 3 days before this Xmas. I manage my time really well. To give you an example, I’m up 7am, at work for 8-8.30am, finish 5.30pm, home by 6pm. Time with little one until he goes to bed at 7.30pm, dinner at 7.45pm, an hour of TV and then study/assignments for 2-3 hours. My two days off, one with family and the other, studying. I use my holidays to get ahead with some assignments, and also for revision of exams.

By keeping strict, and getting ahead, it means I do get down time, to enjoy myself, and enjoy my second passion, photography..

It’s understanding the sacrifices you make that leads to doors opening for you is a brilliant mindset to have.

What do you do to wrap up the day and prepare for the next one?

I ensure that patient records and spectacle orders are updated and in the correct place. I ensure that any dispensing tasks and hours are logged with my supervisor, and if I am not in the following day, do a handover to either my supervisor, my manager or my colleague who is also a final year SDO. 

FInd out more about how to become a dispensing optician here.

3 Replies to “Day in the life … student DO Matthew”

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