My introduction to the world of refractive surgery
Since qualifying as an optometrist 14 years ago, I have worked happily in two independent city centre practices – the former, a very busy contact lens-based practice, and the latter, a somewhat calmer but demanding practice in which I encountered much more pathology. It was during my time there that I gained my independent prescribing qualification, allowing me to treat more of the patients that graced my door.
After being blessed with two little girls (and deciding that two was quite enough for me), I returned to work eager to progress my skills. I considered the future of the optometry profession, and when the opportunity to work at Laser Vision Scotland arose I leapt at the chance.
As optometrists I think we are subliminally bred to be slightly wary of refractive surgery, probably for two reasons: firstly, we can be a bit conservative and are encouraged to believe that unless surgery is essential then why risk it? Secondly, we may be reluctant to ‘give away’ our patients to someone else.
I started my new job a few months ago and within a few hours, I was a convert. While shadowing Mr Jonathan Ross and Mr Sanjay Mantry, I have witnessed an abundance of delighted patients, with several comments of “you’ve changed my life” bringing me close to tears.
When I hear such elation, it makes me realise how important it is for optometrists to be properly informed about refractive surgery so that their patients can be offered the best form of vision correction for them – whether that be glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. Because to witness such joy in only a few months has confirmed that I have made the right decision, and I am thoroughly enjoying my new role.
So what does my role as an optometrist with Laser Vision Scotland involve?
I begin by meeting with patients at their initial consultation. I spend time engaging with them to ensure that I understand their reasons for wanting surgery, what their expectations are, and what concerns they have, if any. I also enquire about their occupation and hobbies. This is all essential information which is required in order to make certain of providing the patients with the optimal treatment for them.
Next, either myself or my colleague Susan will perform a series of diagnostic tests with patients which may include corneal topography (which produces a contour map of the front surface of the eye – paramount in deciding if laser treatment is suitable), optical coherence tomography (allowing us to thoroughly assess the health at the back of the eyes), and biometry (which provides measurements such as the length of the eyeball, and is essential if considering cataract or lens replacement surgery).
I also perform checks which patients may be more familiar with such as checking their vision and prescription, and examining in detail the health of both the external and internal eye.
After evaluation of all the test results and discussion with the patient about the most suitable options for them, I check that the patient is happy to proceed to the next stage. If so, then I arrange a consultation for the patient with either Mr Ross or Mr Mantry. At this appointment the ophthalmologist will check all of the results, and further discuss details of the surgery and the risks involved, and hopefully ease any apprehension that they may have about treatment.
For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of being an optometrist is talking with patients. And in a role like this, good communication and building a rapport is imperative for both the patient feeling comfortable and informed about their options, and for the surgeons to know that the patient understands what is involved. I look forward to meeting many more patients and to being involved in the journey to improve their vision.