This is me graduating in January 2016 at Canterbury, Kent. I qualified as a Dispensing Optician achieving a 2:1 in Health and Social care as well as the FBDO qualification.
I joined the team at Coleman Opticians in May 2011 as an Optical Assistant. Kate and Helen offered me the opportunity to study and become a Dispensing Optician in 2012. I looked into how I could achieve this and decided the best route would be to complete the course by distance learning. This meant I could still work at Coleman’s as well as study. I opted to undertake the course through The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), who run a college in Godmersham, Kent.
At the time I started the course, the college offered two courses by blended learning, a type of distance learning. I chose to undertake the BSc(Hons) award, the other option was a diploma course. The course is considered full-time because of the number of hours a week you are expected to study, which was between 10-15 per week although this was sometimes more depending on the workload. As well as having certain qualifications and experience, I had to be working in practice as a Trainee Dispensing Optician being supervised at Coleman’s by Helen and Kate. Each academic year was split into two terms with six modules per year. I had to complete and pass 32 weekly assignments per academic year, which were sent to my personal tutor by post for marking and feedback. The topics covered included Refractive Management, Contact Lenses, Low Vision, Optics, Ophthalmic Lenses, Evidence Based Practice, Professional Conduct, Ocular Anatomy and Physiology and Communication. I also had to complete five 5000 word essays and one project or report per academic year, one for each module. There was also a written examination for each module, usually taken at the end of each academic year although not always. I also had to sit two practical examinations at the end of the 1st and 3rd year, in order to obtain the Foundation of British Dispensing Opticians (FBDO) qualification. This qualification allows me to call myself a Dispensing Optician provided I am listed on the General Optical Council’s (GOC’s) register.
When I tell people what I do for a living, most people are unsure what being a Dispensing Optician is and means. I explain that I work for Coleman Opticians and I do not perform sight tests as I am not a prescriber, this is what an Optometrist does, but I am part of a friendly team of people you will see both before and after your sight test.
My primary duty as a Dispensing Optician is to dispense spectacles once a patient has had a sight test, but this is not all that I do. After a personal consultation, I give individual advice to each customer about the best type of frame and lenses to choose. I am responsible for supporting other staff within the practice both qualified and unqualified. I also pre-screen patient’s before an eye examination, by performing some preliminary tests which might include reading and recording a patient’s current spectacle lenses, fundus photography where a picture is taken of the back the eye, visual fields screening to measure a person’s peripheral vision and an intra-ocular pressure check which is used to measure the pressure inside the eye. Being an independent practice, we are very hands-on and I am also involved in the ordering and checking of both spectacles and contact lenses. We complete the majority of spectacles ourselves at the practice and all of our work is checked at least twice before you receive notice that your order is ready. On collection of your spectacles, I make sure you can see clearly and make the necessary adjustments so that your new spectacles are comfortable to wear. I can also repair broken or damaged frames where possible and I am there to answer any questions you might have about your spectacles.
To retain my qualification, I have to keep up-to-date with changes to the profession. Myself and other Dispensing Opticians have to accrue Continued Education and Training (CET) points by attending seminars and lectures, reading peer-reviewed articles and journals, in group discussions and logging these with our professional body, on a three-year cycle.
Every day is different at Coleman’s because of all the fabulous customers we see at the practice. I am very lucky that my job is so varied and satisfying. There’s always something to keep me on my toes!