Many students may be quick to align themselves with independent or corporate optometry when thinking about where they want to work after graduating. Independent practice may appeal because of its perceived superiority in terms of clinical optometry and equipment standards, while corporate settings supposedly provide greater job security, staff support and more flexible working hours.
Queensland optometrist Rohan Butterworth believes that both environments have their benefits. During his course at Queensland University of Technology, he undertook work experience at an independent practice in a Brisbane shopping centre, then worked at an OPSM store before returning to the independent practice, which later became a Specsavers franchise.
During this time he secured additional work at an independent practice, and in his final year he supervised second-year students at the QUT optometry clinic.
Rohan says he wasn’t fussed whether his work experience was in corporate or independent optometry. ‘At all the practices I worked mostly as a dispenser and receptionist, which covered repairs and job ordering but not so much of the business side of things,’ he said.
‘I found corporates and independents focused on both retail and health. Practices located in retail areas were more likely to focus on retail—even the independent I worked for in the shopping centre.’
Rohan identifies several points where stereotypes ring true. ‘There was less of a management hierarchy in independent practice, because you’re working more closely with the owners and can communicate with them directly. As a result you may get a bit more of a say in the way the practice runs because they are more consultative and open to feedback,’ he said.
‘Independents generally have a larger variety of practice software and equipment, while corporates often have a limited range of equipment and frame and lens options. The working conditions are generally more flexible in corporate practice. They can cope better with your other commitments, such as university examinations, because there are more staff members to cover for you.
‘Due to the higher volume of patients in corporate practice, I tended to practise more dispensing, whereas in independent practice I got greater exposure to the consulting and eye health side of the profession.’
After completing his studies Rohan worked at an independent practice on the Gold Coast. He says he chose an independent setting because he felt this gave him more flexibility to develop as an optometrist and pursue areas of clinical interest.
‘When I finished university and looked at my options, I was more inclined to just see what happened and what was available. My first priority was location—I preferred somewhere seaside. My next preference was to work with an independent, although I still would have been happy to work for a corporate,’ he said.
Rohan’s focus after graduating was on becoming comfortable with what he was doing and developing as an optometrist, before thinking of developing further skills in areas such as contact lenses and children’s vision.