Most teenagers have little idea of what they want to do with their lives. I was one of the lucky few who knew, from a young age, the career path I wanted to take.
Being accepted into the Doctor of Optometry Program at The University of Melbourne felt exciting – I knew I was taking my first steps towards becoming an optometrist.
Walking into the clinic for the first time confirmed optometry was right for me.
As graduation approached I was often asked; What are your areas of interest? Where do you want to work? What kind of practice?
Had I chosen to work in Melbourne… opportunities like these would have been far fewer
Moving to regional Victoria was always the plan.
After a two-week placement at Wills Street Eyecare in Bendigo, I was fortunate to gain a full time position. I couldn’t have been happier: a full scope private practice in regional Victoria working alongside experienced mentors, Mark Letts and Kirily Bowen.
With their guidance and a well-equipped practice, I was able to further develop my skill set and grow as an optometrist.
ADVANTAGES OF REGIONAL PRACTICE
By working at Wills Street Eyecare alongside Kirily Bowen, I have been exposed to the world of paediatrics and binocular vision. This niche area is a big part of the practice and has fast become a key area of interest for me.
Working in regional practice has also sparked my interest in public education and working with other health professionals.
Reminding the public that optometry is a health care profession – and much more than dispensing glasses alone – is an important message that I believe needs to conveyed. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do so as the optometry representative at a Murray Health Pathways meeting, established to review and help develop integrated and efficient care across multiple health sectors. During my time in Bendigo, I have also visited a local school to discuss optometry and eye care. Had I chosen to work in Melbourne, given the sheer number of optometrists and optometry practices, opportunities like these would have been far fewer. This in itself has reinforced my decision to leave the city.
Representing optometry in this way has helped build my reputation and fill my appointment book. In the consult room, clear communication has been key to building good long-term patient relationships. I see many patients who want second opinions, and although the proposed management and outcome is the same, they often become returning patients, simply because I explain their eye condition clearly. One stand out experience was a mother who brought her five year old son in for a second opinion. He had been prescribed glasses elsewhere, and although my outcome was the same, she appreciated the extra time and care I offered. Since then I have tested the eyes of her entire family. This kind of trust gives me confidence as an eye care professional.
LEARNING AND GROWING
On a daily basis, I am asked why I moved to Bendigo. The answer is simple: I felt the move would give me more exposure to a greater diversity of patients and eye conditions, which would help develop my skill set. Now, two years into my career, I have treated and managed more conditions than I ever imagined. Barely a day goes by when I am not faced with something new and unusual. The decision to move out of the city has been an enjoyable challenge and given me the opportunity to grow, not only as a health care professional, but also as a person.
Dr. Hayden Merrett graduated from the Doctor of Optometry Program at The University of Melbourne in 2015. He practices at Wills Street Eyecare in Bendigo, Victoria.