Sunday, 26 June 2016


As I come towards the OSCEs I thought it fair to reflect on time. Time is a weird concept as Dr Who summed up:

Time comes up in several ways during pre-reg. Firstly the scheme for pre-reg is often a year, but can be extended up to 2 years depending on how the pre-registrant is getting on through the year. At first a year seems a very long time but to actually take the July OSCEs you need to have passed Stage 2 by early June, and if don't start to early August you're suddenly down to 10 months. Even when you start and you have that long it still seems relaxed until you get the date for your first assessment in 6-8 weeks. Whilst there are only 10 competencies in Visit 1 and it's more to get to know your assessor and see how you've been getting on, it is a nervous time. Then each successive visit is another 6 weeks and you're racing through the year. The trick is just to get your head down and get on with it all. If you're organised and have all your competencies planned then it's a lot easier to keep on track. 

The next part is testing time, when I first started my pre-reg I was on 1 hour for testing, then often a gap to dispense the patient or to enable me to reflect on how the test had gone, also known as what the hell just happened. This long test is needed as you may be unfamiliar with the equipment; a little (or very) nervous; struggling to remember your routine; thinking about competencies; getting your supervisor to check everything and just generally being slow. When you're sitting in your introductory talks and you hear you will be expected to be testing to 30 minutes by the end of pre-reg, you laugh and feel very afraid. When you start and your supervisor tells you, you'll be testing to 30 minutes or so by the end, you feel even more afraid, especially if you watch an experienced optom test. However, slowly and surely you learn to smooth corners, become more efficient at Volk/retinoscopy/history and symptoms and you start to become quicker. Then just as you start to feel comfortable with a test time, you get 5 minutes lopped off your test time and the panic starts all over again. I'm currently on 35 minutes and will be staying at that until qualified but it feels okay and I can test most people within that time without rushing, although there are still some patients that take a bit longer that I need to work on. Having your testing time come down is a compliment (no, really), it shows your supervisor has confidence in you and your abilities.

The last part of time is your spare time, or more likely at times the lack of it. During pre-reg you not only have to concentrate on your tests, ensuring your records are up to scratch, filling in all the paperwork for the assessments and revise for your assessments; you also need to find time to relax and switch off. Pre-reg is a daunting year but it is even worse if you are trying to think about optometry 24/7 then burn-out is inevitable and you and your patients will suffer. Take time out to continue with your hobbies, see your friends, go out; maybe even have a holiday.

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