I started work in an optical laboratory manufacturing spectacles and moved to work as an optical assistant in a local optometry practice. I had enjoyed the limited interaction with the public in the lab setting and wished to have a more customer facing role and made the move. Whilst working as an optical assistant I gained an interest in the diagnostic testing carried out by the optometrists but was limited in my scope of practice as an unregistered/unqualified member of staff. I applied for a job at my local hospital as an orthoptic technician, was successful and thus started my career in ophthalmic and vision science.
The post was mainly to carry out visual fields for the eye out patient department. I showed keenness to progress and with some pestering, an increase in demand and some luck my role quickly morphed into that of a trainee ophthalmic science practitioner. I progressed from a band 4 trainee to a band 5 practitioner and gained my competencies for the full range of imaging/diagnostic modalities carried out in an ophthalmic imaging and diagnostics department.
In 2016 I was promoted to the post of senior ophthalmic science practitioner on band 6. I took on more advanced ophthalmic techniques and supervisory duties. The same year I applied for the Primary Care Ophthalmology Masters degree from The University of Edinburgh run in conjunction with The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh. The course was made up of 3 years; certificate, diploma and a final year masters research project. This was the first course that I had come across so far in my then 6 year career that would suit someone working in OVS. At the time the AHPO diploma was in its infancy and I felt that with my previous experience the MSc was the best choice for me.
Applying to study for the MSc was a big step as I had not undertaken degree level studies before, let alone at master’s level. I received a conditional offer back from the university – I had to be a registered practitioner to gain entry. I was already going through the then, new Academy for healthcare science equivalency process for healthcare science practitioners. The pressure was on as it was approaching the course start date. Luckily with some phone calls and emails I gained my registration with a week or two to spare! Highlighting to me the importance of registration – even if voluntary like the AHCS register. It proved to the university the standard I was working to, as well as showed that despite not having a first degree, I had a proven degree level of experience via the certificate of competence issued from the AHCS.
Fast forward to June 2019 and I graduated with distinction. Gaining this level of qualification will help aid in my next goal of becoming a registered clinical scientist. In the more short term, I am being trained in more advanced clinical roles.
I would encourage anyone who wants to progress to take the opportunity to apply for the AHPO diploma/apprenticeship in OVS. The diploma is part time, distance learning and thus makes it suitable for people who are working full time. The diploma is fully accredited and in future a degree level top up will be available. Completion of the diploma will also allow faster registration with the AHCS for those early in their OVS careers compared to those without. Becoming qualified and registered demonstrates to employers of the high standard of your work and with a supportive employer will allow you to progress onto more advanced duties.
Martin McLeod MSc
Senior Ophthalmic Science Practitioner
AHPO advisor to AHCS
AHCS Registration: 1692