Despite the troubled year we’ve come through, there are signs of a new normality on the horizon and plenty to look forward to in 2021. We’ll all just need to make an effort.
Smiley 1. Optometry as a whole is bouncing back strongly after the hiatus of earlier in the year. Almost all practices we talk to are experiencing steady growth, with many almost back to normal consulting numbers. Some, especially in regional centres, are seeing very strong growth – long may it continue!
As 2021 unfolds… I’d strongly encourage you to get back to things which we have always enjoyed as professionals…
Smiley 2. Cases of influenza and pneumonia have dropped by about 90% visà- vis last year. Not surprising really – we’re now all so clean that no self-respecting germ wants anything to do with us.
Smiley 3. Queen Elizabeth II has knighted Captain Tom Moore, recognising the 100-year-old for lifting Britain’s spirits during the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic by raising millions of pounds for health workers. The World War II veteran raised some 33 million pounds (AU$59.2 million) for the National Health Service (NHS) in April by walking 100 laps of his garden with the aid of a walking frame in the run-up to his birthday. An absolute star!
Smiley 4. Coronavirus lockdowns globally, have given parts of the natural world a rare opportunity to experience life with hardly any humans around. Animals in urban areas are exploring emptied streets and waterways, and delighting human inhabitants along the way. While many of these are not unique sightings, the human restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic seem to have given animals the confidence to go deeper into our cities and stay for longer. Others are enjoying having nature reserves and parks all to themselves.
Smiley 5. According to CNN, locals in the Punjab region of India have been able to see the Himalayas for the first time in decades due to reduced levels of pollution since India’s COVID-19 lockdown.
To everyone who has been affected by COVID-19, and the political and social impacts that have come with it – normality (or at least a fair imitation of it) isn’t far away.
NEW ISSUES ON THE HORIZON
As we head towards 2021, it’s interesting to consider some of the issues for the profession.
Employment. This is top of the charts for our new graduates. Across the country, jobs will be tight, but not unobtainable. It’s safe to say that if your goal is to work within 10km of your home in suburban Sydney, you’ll be very, very lucky to realise that straight out of university. Flexibility will be the key – regional areas, interstate, even New Zealand – all of them offer opportunities well in excess of those you’re likely to find in the big cities. And they’re better paid too.
Locum work. Locums were the first to feel the pinch when the downturn started and they’re slow in coming back. But work is returning. Rates are down on pre- COVID-19 levels, but as patient numbers pick up, demand for locums is recovering. Again, locums will need to look further afield at least in the short term – we’re seeing opportunities in regional areas across the country, so if you can travel, there is work out there.
Mental health. Everyone is talking about it, but from where we sit, a lot of us are only paying lip service when it comes to our own mental health care. To assist Association members, Optometry NSW/ ACT has launched The Resilience Box, an outstanding online resource to help with a wide range of mental health and personal resilience topics. Our colleagues at Optometry Australia have also made the resource available across other states and territories, so members everywhere can access this outstanding service. If you didn’t get the email with your personal invitation link, call us on (AU) 02 9712 2199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting back to normal. As 2021 unfolds, to varying degrees and with varying speed, our world will right itself. As it does, I’d strongly encourage you to get back to things which we have always enjoyed as professionals – especially the opportunity to meet and mix with colleagues.
For most of 2020, what is at the best of times a fairly solitary profession has been markedly more so. Yes, it will be a pain to get out to meetings, but I’d strongly encourage you to make the effort – both personally and professionally, we need to re-establish those connections.
By the time you read this, Christmas will be just around the corner – so to everyone, have a wonderful Christmas and, like me, give 2020 the Royal Order of the Boot come 31 December!
Andrew McKinnon is the Chief Executive Officer of Optometry New South Wales / Australian Capital Territory.