Is your role clinical or non-clinical?
When you were in school, did you want to join the NHS?
Yes, I was keen to be involved in a healthcare job. I looked into optometry and other eye courses and settled on orthoptics.
Tell us about your job
A typical day for me as a stroke orthoptist would involve seeing stroke patients with vision problems on the hyper acute and acute stroke wards, working closely with stroke medical staff and therapists. Afternoons tend to involve seeing stroke patients in outpatients, with some paediatric sessions with my orthoptic colleagues. When seeing paediatric patients we work very closely with consultant ophthalmologists and optometrists, as well as our administration teams.
How did you come to work in the NHS?
I left school with GCSEs in various subjects and studied maths, biology and physics at A level in college. I was working part time at Specsavers as an optical assistant and developed a further interest in ophthalmology and eye care. I studied at the University of Liverpool a specialist vocational degree in Orthoptics. Once I qualified I worked in North Wales and then moved to Southampton. I am now the lead for orthoptic stroke services in Southampton.
What are some challenges?
The varied case load.
What do you love about your job?
Seeing a wide range of patients from very young babies to patients as old as 100! Each patient is unique and challenging.
Which Clinical colleagues support you?
Consultant stroke physicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, therapy technicians, consultant ophthalmologists, optometrists, dispensing optometrists.
Which Non-clinical colleagues support you?
Is there career progression in your role and how would you get there?
Typically orthoptists start at band 5 following qualifying with a degree in orthoptics at undergraduate level. Most departments offer a preceptorship year to ensure orthoptists are well supported and allowing them to progress to band 6. Band 6 roles usually take on an extended role such as glaucoma, low vision or medical retina (including eye injections). Band 7 roles typically involve running a service such as stroke services, or deputy head orthoptists, these orthoptists usually need a masters level qualification. Head/lead orthoptists progress to band 8.
What would you say to a young person thinking of joining the NHS?
Orthoptics is a rewarding career with good opportunities for development and progression. Working in a busy environment keeps you interested and engaged, and the connections you make both professionally and socially are excellent.