I have now been a pre-reg for 4 weeks and so far I have managed to survive. I'm not going to lie and say it has all been plain sailing, there have been a few times already when I've wanted to curl up into a little ball and have a breakdown but with a bit of help from supervisors, other staff and friends I've made it through.
So what have I learnt?
1. I am fine with normal patients; routine sight tests even on older patients are relatively straightforward. This is a good thing as it will be my bread and butter going forward. I have managed some in 35 minutes which I was quite proud of. Older patients are taking me a bit longer but that is mainly due to wanting to be sure of health check.
2. When things go wrong or aren't quite what I expect then it tends to throw me. Sometimes I can recover within my appointment time and get it sorted, sometimes it does throw me for a little while and it takes a chat with my supervisors to talk me down.
3. Visit 1 wasn't as bad as I feared. It took some effort to get the competencies sorted, and I have one rolled over to visit 2 and that was only due to my record not being detailed enough on the print out. I know it's a cliche but pre-reg is a lot easier if you are organised. Have a look through your paperwork regularly with your supervisor and ask them for tips.
4. Most patients are nice. If you explain to them that you are still learning, the test may take a bit longer and you will get things checked then the vast majority are happy to give consent for records to be used and that they will have a thorough test.It also helps if when the patient is booked in with you if they are made aware of the situation so that you don't get the ones that need to be in and out of the test room within 20 minutes.
5. Keep your optical assistants and shop floor staff on your side. They are the ones who are booking most of your appointments so they can do some screening for you. They are also the people who may sit as test subjects for visit 1, for remembering how to do contact tonometry and trialling RGP lenses. If you can, give them a list of the types of patients you need to see (in plain English, not optom speak) and that should mean competencies are easier to come by.
I would like to thank Michelle for her support (and link). Michelle is a newly qualified optometrist working in Scotland who also blogged through her pre-reg year, lots of useful tips and interesting patient episodes can be found on her blog.