Interview with Abby Sidnell, our Post-Grad Optometrist

15th March 2021

Our Post-Grad Optometrist Abby shares her story about getting into Optometry 

If you know someone who’s thinking about their future career choices, and is interested in optometry, read on… 

Our Post-Grad Optometrist, Abby Sidnell, talks to us about her path into optometry and how a passion for medicine and science finally led to a career as an optician.  

Abby’s shared her advice as we reach the end of National Healthcare Science Week, a chance to promote the amazing work of healthcare science professionals.  Abby’s definitely a bright young science professional who we’re proud to have in our Dipple & Conway team. 

What is your role at Dipple & Conway?

I am a Post-Graduate Optometrist.  I graduated from University in July 2020, and am half way through my pre-registration year. It means that once I’ve passed this year, I can practise as a fully qualified optician.  I work at the Norwich (mainly) and Diss practices

What advice would you give to someone who wants to train as an Optician?

Get some real-life work experience in an opticians before going to University.  It really helps to get familiar with the clinical language and the day-to-day workings of a practice.  You can get a real feel for whether you’re suited to it as a career. 

Where did you study?

Anglia Ruskin University, where I took the General Optical Council (GOC) accredited degree in Optometry. 

What do you do day to day?

My current role is really varied which makes it so interesting. To qualify, I need to gain experience in all areas of optometric practise. To pass my assessments,  I have to complete a set number of eye tests, contact lens fittings, aftercare appointments and dispense spectacles too.  There’s lots to do. 

I get brilliant support and mentoring from my senior qualified colleagues. The Senior Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians oversee all my work, guide me, mentor me and check everything I’m doing is at the highest clinical standards. 

All the theory I learnt at University is now being put into real practise, which is what you train for! 

Do you have to be scientific?

Yes, definitely.  You have to have a passion for all the sciences I would say.  I took biology, chemistry and psychology at A level. 

If I went back in time, I would take Maths at A level too. It’s a good subject to have under your belt as an optician. The first year at degree level involves a lot of Maths. 

Did you always want to be an Optician?

Actually no.  As a teenager, I wanted to be a Doctor.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  And I’m really glad things took a turn and I’ve found optometry instead.  

After graduating from my first degree in Forensic Science I found it really tough to get work.  Then I joined an opticians as Optical Assistant and being in that environment quickly sparked a new interest.   So I decided to retrain.  It just goes to show that some things don’t work out for a very good reason. 

What qualifications do you need? 

You have to take the University route, and sign up to a GOC registered course (the industry governing body.) There are currently 11 UK Universities offering an Optometry course.  

I was accepted because I already had a science-based degree.  Science at A levels are required if you go straight into it.  Biology and physics are the most important, I would say. 

What’s so interesting about treating eyes?

Clinical jobs have always fascinated me. And from an early age, I was so curious about medicine, anatomy and working in an environment where you get to take care of people.  

But there are lots of reasons that I find it interesting. 

  • The opportunity to focus on one specialist area and become an expert. 
  • The variety of people I meet and treat, from the very young to elderly patients. 
  • No two days are ever the same. You can go from a routine appointment one minute to seeing someone with an eye emergency, and referring them to hospital for sight saving treatment the next. 

I’d also say I am an introvert, so a crowded A&E room wouldn’t suit my personality.   If, like me, you think you’d prefer working with patients one-on-one and working by yourself in a calm environment, then it’s a great clinical career choice.  Also – there are no night shifts!

Where can a career as an Optician take you?

Once qualified, it doesn’t stop there.  You can complete professional diplomas to become a specialist in areas such as Glaucoma.    You can pursue a career as a hospital optometrist, working in a hospital eye clinic.  Or there’s the research side too, with the opportunity to study a PhD.  

For now, I’m enjoying working in practice at Dipple & Conway Opticians, but if someone is thinking about a career working with eyes, it’s really worth investigating all the different avenues it can lead. 

Are there any useful resources you can point people to?

The College of Optometrists website is a great starting point.  It has lots of useful information about what the job involves, how to get into University, and more about working with eyes and different eye conditions. 

What’s your last word of advice?

I’ve said it before, but get work experience.  When you’re at Uni, or even before, try and get a weekend job in an opticians.  It has helped me immensely.  You can dip your toe in the water and find out if it’s for you.  

When I went on to study it at University, I found all the theory clicked into place so much more easily, because I’d worked in a clinical environment already, and had absorbed lots of the clinical language and terminology.  I’d strongly advise it.   

Posted by Dipple Conway

"I’m very impressed by the friendly and helpful attitude of the staff at Dipple and Conway, and by the very competent and professional service my optometrist provided. It really is a pleasure to ones eyes tested there."

Mike Lindsay
Optician Awards Finalist Investor in People The College of Optometrists British Contact Lens Association Association of Dispensing Opticians Best Family Business 2020

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