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Trainee Optical Consultant to Student Dispensing Optician – Matthew’s Story

Matthew Farrugia
Matthew Farrugia | November 10, 2021
Student Dispensing Optician
I think the best part of this journey is no matter how much I learn, I still ask the question, why? This leads to discovering new topics and new subjects within Optics.
Trainee Optical Consultant to Student Dispensing Optician – Matthew’s Story

Meet Matthew, a second year Student Dispensing Optician at Boots Opticians. Matthew started as a Trainee Optical Consultant but wanted to take his training and development further to be able to help patients independently, without requiring the assistance of a Qualified Optometrist.

What inspired you to become a Student Dispensing Optician?

I’m naturally inquisitive and always want to know more about the ‘why’ in particular. Being an Optical Consultant led me to be even more inquisitive, I spent a lot of time with a Dispensing Optician in store and started problem solving. I didn’t like not knowing why a patient was having a problem and thought to myself, if I couldn’t understand why there’s a problem, then how am I going to solve it and explain it to the patient? That’s why I decided to embark on this journey, I had found a passion in a role that I thoroughly enjoyed through and through and wanted to learn even more.

What do you enjoy most about working in Optometry?

I have to say it’s the knowledge and learning within Optics. I think the best part of the journey is no matter how much I learn, I still ask the question, why? This leads to discovering new topics and new subjects within Optics and how you can reference these to everyday life. For example, I have learned why heights are adjusted for Pantoscopic tilt (a lens tilt) and the trigonometry associated with it, and it makes perfect sense!

How have you been supported with your development at Boots Opticians?

I work with the most amazing team. From my Trainee Optical Consultant days to setting up our conference with the ABDO (Association of British Dispensing Opticians) Operations Manager to give us an insight on this journey, I have always felt fully supported.

My Store Manager, Sam, knows me so well and we have a great relationship. She has spent time developing me and coaching me to handle all sorts of situations. I also have two supervisors who are both fantastic too. My supervisors are there to teach and encourage with my development. This can be anything from simply explaining why a particular lens has been dispensed for a patient, to manual skills such as learning to use a manual focimeter (a device used to determine the power of a lens) and mark up lenses. They’re there to ensure your case studies are checked and signed, making sure you cover each aspect required by providing positive and constructive feedback.

My two supervisors are fantastic because they take an interest in me as an individual and adapt their method according to how I like to learn and what is more effective. We have peer to peer discussions that are both scheduled or just on the spot.

I haven’t disclosed this to many people, but I actually have a mild form of autism, high functioning Asperger syndrome, which had been diagnosed only a few years ago and this explained certain things. With my practice, my team members, my manger and my supervisors, they are all very supportive and have a clear understanding of how I do things and why I do them in such a way. In turn, with their support, I’ve been able to overcome certain things, such as being able to multi task more efficiently, whereas prior I would solely focus on the task in hand.

We have interesting peer to peer discussions, an Optometrist showed me a PVD on a retinal photo and our Newly Qualified Optometrist showed me a patient with a sixth nerve palsy. Incredible!

A PVD is a Posterior Vitreous Detachment. At the back of the eye, we have various layers, including the retina where light signals are sent to the brain, for the brain to interpret them in the form of vision of objects, etc. A PVD is where this particular layer starts to come away from the retina at the back of the eye. Usual signs of this are floaters (little black spots floating in your vision) or flashes. Sometimes this can lead to the retina layer detaching which requires emergency treatment.

A sixth nerve palsy is a condition in reference to the sixth cranial nerve (abducens nerve) which is a nerve responsible for causing the contraction of an eye muscle (lateral rectus), to abduct the eye (eye turn outwards).

If you have a sixth nerve palsy, effectively this nerve is having a spasm which can be due to a number of issues, high blood pressure, transient ischemic attack/mini-stroke, a complication of diabetes and other conditions.

Having a sixth nerve palsy causes the in ability to turn your eye outwards. As such it means that unless you turn your head to compensate you usually experience double vision and depending on the cause of it determines how quick diagnosis and treatment required.

The team have been very supportive and positive, especially around booking in dispenses for relevant case studies or collections and even when exams loom, they are all amazingly encouraging.

What advice would you give to anyone considering becoming a Student Dispensing Optician?

There is a huge amount of work, so planning and time management is extremely key and important. Despite the hard work you need to put in, the experience is extremely rewarding and time flies by in a blink of an eye!

If you have a passion for Optics, then go for it! You will have the support you need for it!


Watch Matthew’s ‘Five minutes with…’ video here:


Interested in Optics? Take a look at our Opticians Career Area here.


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