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HomemiprofessionJumping into the Deep End

Jumping into the Deep End

Completing her optometry degree during COVID left Jennifer Pack feeling a little nervous about whether she was ready to see patients… until she was told, “that’s how everyone feels, just jump on in”.

Since high school, I have always wanted to work in eye health, and in a regional area of Australia. Having taken Indigenous studies, I’d come across a few shocking statistics – like the fact that 97% of blindness within Australia’s Indigenous communities is preventable. That’s not a fair situation and so I wanted to be in a place where I could do something to help close the gap.

I wanted to get to know my patients and to establish their trust so that they could rely on me to care for the management of their eye health over the long-term

Having completed my degree, I realised I also wanted to be in a location where I could use all the skills I’ve developed across five years of study. Rather than refract and refer ocular conditions on, as is often the case in metropolitan areas, the idea of gaining experience managing more complicated cases, without ophthalmologists on tap, appealed. I wanted to get to know my patients and to establish their trust so that they could rely on me to care for the management of their eye health over the long-term.

I found my opportunity in Vincentia, on the South Coast of New South Wales and, following a few challenges securing accommodation in this beautiful tourist destination, started at EyeQ in February this year.

EyeQ, as an optometry group, appealed to me for a few reasons. Perhaps most of all because I have a close friend who works here, and she’d given me plenty of insights. Secondly, there is a strong focus on clinical eye health and then of course, Peter Rose, our practice principal in the Shoalhaven, has a great reputation.

I clearly remember my first day at EyeQ. I was really excited and equally nervous. Having completed almost two of my final years of study during COVID, I didn’t feel the practical experience I’d had equalled that of others who’d gone before me. I’d had to miss a few placements and didn’t get to spend time at the Australian College of Optometry – an opportunity I’d heard students gain so much from.

Nevertheless, the team at EyeQ quickly put me at ease. They all reassured me that as a graduate you never feel fully prepared on day one – or even for the first few weeks. I remember one saying, “you’ve just got to dive in at the deep end”.

So I did, and it was great.

I was given plenty of support, and there was no pressure to move through consults quickly, which relaxed me straight away. I was also encouraged to try the equipment and perform as many tests as I wanted before deciding which work best for my way of practice.

Having been here now for a few months, I’ve discovered interests in areas of optometry I hadn’t had much exposure to at university. I’m very interested in gaining knowledge in anterior and posterior ocular disease and also in working with children – I’ve realised that paediatric optometry can be a lot of fun and involves much more than refracting.

As for providing eye health services to Indigenous communities, that’s still on my radar, although I’ve realised that in the first instance, I need to get settled in here and comfortable with day-to-day practice. In the future, I am definitely looking forward to getting involved in outreach work.

Settling into the town of Vincentia has been difficult due to constant rain which has prevented me from getting out too much. However, whenever I can, I take the opportunity to drop into shops and introduce myself, and I always chat with patients about interesting things to do in the area – like where the best bushwalks are.

Being close to Sydney means I can easily return home to see family and friends, which is reassuring. However, it’s my plan to be in Vincentia for at least a few years and to become part of this local community. I really am keen to get to know people and make this my home.

Jennifer Pack graduated from University of New South Wales in 2021 and works as an optometrist at EyeQ Optometrists in Vincentia, New South Wales.