Stepping solo into a consultation can be daunting early in your career. Sometimes you just have to put on a brave face.
After graduating from the Queensland University of Technology in 2014, I began working at Durkin & Black, a group of two independent practices in Toowoomba. I had recently finished clinical placement with the practices and so, had been lucky enough to get a feel for them before starting work.
What appealed to me about Durkin & Black was the variety of consultations, which would give me the opportunity to engage in and explore different modes of practice and in doing so, develop my clinical skills for the future. That variety included complex consultations such as orthokeratology and keratoconic lens fittings, paediatric and behavioural optometry as well as general practice including therapeutics, glasses and normal contact lenses. I have found this variety in clinical practice to be incredibly rewarding – not knowing what you will see in a day can be both exciting and daunting at the same time, however it does keep the days interesting.
I am still not completely certain what enticed me into optometry – when I left school I hadn’t had my eyes tested for a very long time, so although I knew the general premise of what an optometrist did, beyond that I had little idea. I do remember trawling through the booklet of potential university courses and having my interested peaked by it, perhaps it was my keen interest in science and mathematics. Regardless, I took a bit of a leap of faith and it seems to be working out for the best so far.
I have always been quite shy and reserved… and this is what I struggled with most, particularly in the first year after graduation
I have always been quite shy and reserved and have struggled at times with confidence, and this is what I have struggled with the most as an optometrist, particularly in the first year after graduation.
Having come from the university clinic, where I was constantly under supervision, it walking into a consultation as a fully independent clinician felt quite daunting. I particularly found it difficult to recommend treatment and retail components to patients; both in the consulting room and when handing over to dispensing staff.
Fortunately, two things in particular helped me through this stage, and one was a very valuable piece of advice that I had received while at university – one of my clinical supervisors, having sensing my reserved personality, told me to simply ‘fake it till I made it’… or rather to bluff my way through until confidence began to come.
I found myself heading into consultations with almost a false bravado and sure enough, my confidence began to improve.
The other thing that assisted me was my fellow optometrists, who were always ready to act as a crutch and provide support or advice as required.
In the future I would like to own a practice, however beyond that, I have no concrete plans. I am still testing and sampling as many aspects of optometry as I can and I believe this will direct my future in optometry.
It is easy at times to be drawn into a sense of monotony, particularly on days that consist almost entirely of prescription checks. I think it is important to remember the effect that a simple pair of glasses can make to a person’s life; from seeing the wonderment of a myopic child with their very first pair of glasses to the elation of a newly diagnosed presbyope, as they excitedly read the smallest of prints, which they had previously thought would be no longer possible. These are the little things that add joy and value to our work as optometrists and definitely make it worthwhile.
Ben Gambrill graduated in Optometry from University of Queensland in 2014 and practices at Durkin & Black in Toowoomba.