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HomemiprofessionFinding Purpose in Remote Practise

Finding Purpose in Remote Practise

As the sole optometrist at OPSM Broome, recent graduate Campbell Reefman leans in on his professional circle for support and expertise, and on his mother for inspiration.

I have always been interested in optometry and aware of the challenges some people face when accessing eye care services. Growing up in a small coastal town in country Victoria, I had to travel an hour for my eye tests. As a student of optometry at Deakin University, the imbalance between rural and metro healthcare became more apparent to me. Now, as the sole optometrist in Broome, Western Australia, I regularly see patients who travel upwards of six hours each way for their eye tests.

…supporting the logistics of a patient’s situation can be as complicated as managing their eye pathology

Practising in Broome came about by chance. At the end of my course at Deakin, I was due to do a six-month residential placement, starting in New Zealand, and finishing in Western Australia. When my flights were cancelled due to COVID restrictions, I packed my car and, in less than two weeks, was on the road, driving from Victoria to Western Australia. It was while finishing my last placement rotation with OPSM in Perth that I saw the opportunity to practise in Broome. It was too good to pass up.

As a single optometrist store, working in Broome was a big jump for a graduate, however support from the OPSM community helped ease the transition. Immediately following graduation, I was able to build my experience and confidence working alongside seasoned optometrists in a busy Perth store before making the move.

One of the biggest challenges has been to trust myself – to know that regardless of who comes through the door, I have the training and ability to identify their eye health concerns and find a solution. When you start out, there is a tendency to focus on an unexpected finding then anchor onto the worst-case outcomes. Instead, I have learnt to take a bit of extra time to compose myself, reassess the presentation and, if necessary, consult my support network, which is key to considering all outcomes. This was a big contrast from placement where, as a student, I could just knock on my supervisor’s door for that same support. Confidence is surely a natural learning curve for any new graduate, but for me, in solo-practice, it has certainly been my biggest area of growth.

Indigenous healthcare is a large part of daily practise in Broome. Seeing first-hand the disparity in health outcomes between, for example, people living in a typical Geelong suburb and those in a remote Indigenous community, was not something I was prepared for. There are unique challenges within this population, such as particular pathologies and often quite poor health literacy. However, the most significant challenge can be facilitating access to health care. Due to distance and, especially now, the current cost of fuel, people living in remote communities often only come to Broome a few times a year, complicating delivery of ongoing clinical care. This means that supporting the logistics of a patient’s situation can be as complicated as managing their eye pathology. While daunting, it is heartening to see more programs and pathways being established to make accessible health a greater priority.

INSPIRATION AND SUPPORT

My mum manages a local not-for-profit charity in my hometown and, for as long as I can remember, has worked tirelessly to make her community a better place for everyone in it. Her dedication, ingenuity, and unwavering compassion towards those less fortunate is the biggest motivator for me every day in practice. Like mum, I feel lucky to be in a place where I can have a direct impact on the people in my community.

Day-to-day, I am supported by local ophthalmologists who I lean on for expertise, my online OPSM colleagues who lend their experience and opinions to particularly tricky cases, and my optometry university cohort, who help me with even the most everyday cases.

All this support and guidance means working independently in a rural setting is far from intimidating – in fact, it is incredibly rewarding. I hope every optometrist has the chance to jump in and try it at least once.

Campbell Reefman graduated from Deakin University with a Masters Degree in Optometry in 2021. He is the sole optometrist managing OPSM Broome.