Whether you’re providing eye care to the local community, influencing or executing the roll-out of services in a practice, optometry provides opportunities for continuous learning and growth.
Having been born and bred in the ‘top end of Australia’, on completion of my undergraduate studies at Deakin University, I felt a natural inclination to return home to practise and provide eye care to my local Darwin community. My first job was alongside Helen Summers, a wonderful mentor who is passionate about, and very driven to make an impact on the eye health of the community and the industry. Working with Helen provided a plethora of opportunities to explore and grow in my early career as an optometrist. At the forefront of areas including behavioural and developmental optometry, dry eye management, Indigenous eye health and aviation optometry, she encouraged me to dabble in all of them so I could determine which I did and did not enjoy.
when you start out in optometry, it is important to embrace every opportunity to grow through as many new and varied experiences as possible
While practising with Helen, regular outreach services to rural and remote communities were the norm. Working as part of a small team of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, I would travel to Indigenous homeland communities via four-wheel-drive or light aircraft, to contribute to programs that help prevent avoidable blindness and vision loss. At Danila Dilba Health Service, an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation focused on early detection and treatment of acute and chronic diseases, I provided weekly eye care and diabetic eye testing to patients with comorbidities such as chronic renal failure and ischaemic heart disease. Additionally, I provided optometric care to patients in prison; a role that involved liaising with other allied health professions in the medical centre to ensure patients had access to health care and approved medical aids, such as spectacles.
All of these experiences were incredible and unforgettable, however having worked back in Darwin for two years, I felt the need for a change and decided to seek out a new role in this vast field of optometry. I am now a few years into my second job as an optometrist, this time at Bailey Nelson Chadstone in Melbourne, Victoria. I’m thrilled to say that as much as I loved working in the top end, I’m also enjoying every bit of working in the city. As the principal optometrist at Bailey Nelson’s flagship store, my day-to-day duties involve not only testing eyes but working in collaboration with our Eyecare Director, Lawrie Jacobson, to strategically plan and pilot new ideas to improve clinical operations and customer journeys in store.
At the time of writing, we are focusing on ways to improve our contact lens customer journey. The advent of our private label contact lenses, as well as our strong emphasis on contact lens growth, has seen an increase in contact lens appointments, which in turn have affected optometry capacity in stores. To overcome this challenge, we have devised a strategy, and successfully implemented actions, to support healthy growth in contact lens sales without compromising our ability to perform comprehensive eye examinations. Now, we are hoping to roll the program out company-wide.
well as operating at this ‘big-picture’ level, I work very closely with my store manager to manage clinical operations, continuously improve efficiencies, and ensure our locums and dispensers are across all store goals and operations.
As you can see from my own short journey to date, a career in optometry can take you in many different directions. The incredible clinical experiences I had while working with Helen in practice and in the community gave me a strong foundation for my career as an optometrist. Now, the opportunities to develop my strategic and managerial skills while practising at Bailey Nelson are building on that foundation. I can’t wait to see where my optometry career will take me and what further experiences I can add under my belt.
Whichever path you take, I believe that when you start out in optometry, it is important to embrace every opportunity to grow through as many new and varied experiences as possible. This will enable you to continually build on, and hone your skill set, all the while bringing you job satisfaction through engagement and the enjoyment of always learning something new.
Lanchi Nguyen graduated with a Bachelor of Vision Science and Master of Optometry from Deakin University in 2017. She is the principal optometrist at Bailey Nelson Chadstone, Victoria.