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HomemiprofessionLearning the Art of Optometry at Home and Abroad

Learning the Art of Optometry at Home and Abroad

As a 2019 graduate, Henriette Warnken has already experienced unique opportunities that will shape her career in optometry.

My first experience working in the optical industry began in much the same way as it does for many optometrists: with a part-time job as an optical assistant. What was particularly special for me however, was the practice itself: an independent boutique optometry practice on the Gold Coast named Eyeconic Optometry. I still remember how far out of my league I felt on my first day in this gorgeously designed practice filled with beautiful frames. Luckily, it didn’t take long before I enjoyed the process of picking out frames and lenses with patients.

…turbulent times generate opportunities and I have found myself thoroughly enjoying my time as an accredited optometrist

Eyeconic Optometry is owned and run by Celia Bloxsom who, as well as running a general practice, also focuses on advanced contact lens (CL) fitting, myopia control and chronic dry eye management. During the years I worked there as an assistant, I remember marvelling at just how expansive the scope of CL wear was; I got to observe CLs fit to newborn aphakic babies, orthokeratology lenses fit to myopic children, and keratoconic patients who were able to restore a large part of their functional vision just with CLs. That time also provided a real sense of the practical implementation of the profession I was studying.

A SEMESTER ABROAD

In my final year as a student (back when international travel was still as easy as a few clicks online) I was given the opportunity to complete a semester abroad at the University of Waterloo (UW) in Canada. This was the only English-speaking School of Optometry in Canada, and it gave me the opportunity to work five days a week in their multi-level student optometry clinic. As well as furthering my clinical skills, I cherished the chance to interact with and service the wider community of Waterloo. My weekly roster involved rotating through various specialty clinics, some of which I had never experienced before. Dilated exams were performed on every patient in the primary care clinic, which helped me get my bearings when examining the peripheral retina. I was also able to observe electrodiagnostics in action as a tool for diagnosis of inherited retinal diseases, and I enjoyed the student CL clinic, which boasted an impressive range of CLs and specialty fittings; one stand out moment was trialling new technologies including transition CLs.

Reflecting back, I think my time spent abroad helped me decide exactly what I wanted out of a graduate job. Most importantly though, I left Canada with a newfound appreciation for Australian coffee – probably not a big surprise to anyone who has spent a few weeks in North America.

EARLY CAREER

After returning from Canada, I resumed my part time dispensing job while finishing my degree and was extremely lucky to be offered a position as a graduate optometrist at Eyeconic Optometry. This allowed me to return home to the Gold Coast.

My first and foremost goal for the next few years is to become comfortable and confident in my profession and gain as much experience as possible. Beyond that, myopia control and specialty CL fitting are my areas of interest. As a child, I was a huge bookworm – I often ignored eye strain to read late into the night – and having never heard about how to prevent myopia, was lucky to have avoided it. I would love to be in a position to educate and treat the next generation of bookworms, especially those who struggle with myopia from an early age. Whatever I decide, I am fortunate to have excellent mentors who are very happy to support me.

So far, I can’t say my first four months of work have run completely smoothly given the upheaval created by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, turbulent times generate opportunities and I have found myself thoroughly enjoying my time as an accredited optometrist in a small but very dynamic practice.

Henriette Warnken graduated as an optometrist in 2019 from Queensland University of Technology and practises at Eyeconic Optometry on the Gold Coast. 

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