We bring you our first miprofession column, which each month will cover insights from young and upcoming optometrists.
I’ve seen other optometrists make the move to regional Australia look easy. But when I moved to the south coast of New South Wales in 2011, I felt slightly daunted. I was just out of university and I’d always lived at home. I wasn’t keen on the idea of moving away from family and friends.
Practicing at EyeQ Optometrists in Kiama and Nowra exposed me to many things I did not expect. It was a big adjustment from the slower pace at university with my first day fully booked with appointments. Within the first six months, I think I saw the whole ocular pathology textbook. Each day was busy and I was exposed to many areas of optometry I didn’t expect so early on. I learnt, from the processes put in place by EyeQ, to work smarter and more efficiently.
I had an amazing mentorship under the guidance of Peter Rose and quickly learnt how to customise eye tests for individual patients. When you are busy, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of testing eyes without remembering that every patient is more than just a pair of eyes. I quickly learnt many skills early in my career that increased my scope of practice including orthokeratology, keratoconic fitting, and behavioural optometry.
through patience, perseverance, sacrifice and a lot of hard work my dream became a reality
A particular experience I recall is having a lovely patient who came in one day complaining of bumping into things on her right side. A visual field test revealed a right homonymous hemianopia and I referred her straight to the hospital. She was diagnosed with a brain tumour and was operated on the next day. I got a phone call from the patient’s husband the next day telling me that she didn’t make it. It hit me at that moment just how critical our role was, not just in the eye health of our patients but their overall wellbeing too.
Working in the Country
It is true what they say about country people. They are less stressed, generally friendlier, trusting, and appreciative of your efforts. During the week, I dedicated my time to work and would return to Sydney on most weekends. However, about three years after moving down to the South Coast, I hit a rut in my life and felt that I needed to be home.
I moved back to Sydney and commuted down to Kiama for work. This wasn’t easy and so, when I became very run down and eventually quite sick, I decided to move back down to Nowra. It was not until then that I fully embraced the opportunity to explore the area. I spent my weekends travelling from Jervis Bay to Pigeon House Mountain to Mollymook beach to Narooma and all the way down to Merimbula. The team at EyeQ is dedicated to what they do and the area they operate in. I had decided to do it their “local way” and it was great fun! I wish I had embraced the experience earlier. It’s the one regret I have.
Taking on a Practice
I have always wanted to own a practice within an hour of Sydney. After several years of rural work, I felt I was ready for the next challenge and to push myself. I waited a long time for a good opportunity to come along. Then I saw the opportunity to open an EyeQ Optometrists practice in Engadine, on the southern fringe of Sydney.
Working with EyeQ practices had shown me the hard work involved in running a practice. But it had also reassured me that the back-office support supplied by the EyeQ team would help me to focus on the clinical side of optometry.
There are of course, several steps to opening a new practice. Identifying the site, arranging the shop fit out, advertising for, selecting and ‘onboarding’ staff, and attracting new patients through the doors. EyeQ Optometrists guided me through the process and, through patience, perseverance, sacrifice and a lot of hard work my dream became a reality. I opened my new practice in Engadine in 2017.
I would thoroughly recommend considering a rural experience to enhance a clinical career while treating it as an opportunity to see Australia and experience a different way of life. I would also recommend that young optometrists seriously consider taking on their own practice. There are challenges, but with support and guidance, anything is possible.
Doug Grimson graduated in optometry in 2010. He is the practice owner of EyeQ Optometrists in Engadine, NSW.