By Patrick Hutchens
Doubts about her clinical decisions used to trouble Sydney optometrist Dianne Pyliotis at the beginning of her career.
At first, Dianne regularly double checked aspects of her work with her mentor, which she now knows was unnecessary.
‘I would go over my management plan for certain patients even when I knew that I was right, because I needed the assurance. You’ve got to trust yourself a little bit, especially with things that you know you can do,’ she said.
Dianne believes that in those early stages, she made the error of not asserting herself as a professional to both her colleagues and her patients.
She gives the example of a discussion with one of her patients following an eye examination.
After delivering an assessment of the patient’s vision, whose prescription was mild, she made the mistake of asking her patient whether they felt they needed spectacles. Looking back, she believes that it was her responsibility to make a recommendation to the patient.
‘I didn’t do that as well as I could have. It was pointed out to me by my mentor. You are the professional who they’re coming to with the problem. You’re the one who solves it,’ she said.
Dianne believes that she justified to dispensing staff her reasons for writing prescriptions for patients.
‘I didn’t have to answer to them with regard to patient care. In the first few months, I forgot that and I was explaining some of the things that I had to do,’ she said.
David Kim, an optometrist who practises in Newcastle, NSW, knows the importance of communicating well with patients.
‘A large part of optometry is about how your patient perceives your findings, not the accuracy of them. A perfect refraction may not suit the patient and therefore they will not be able to find the true value in it,’ David said.
‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even about refraction, to a fellow optometrist if you are unsure of the final result, and tailor the prescription to the patient’s needs,’ he said.
He cautions early career optometrists against forgetting that optometric practices are usually run as businesses, and warns that resistance to this fact can drive a manager or employer into a corner and create unnecessary animosity.
‘It is definitely important to deliver high-quality eye care and that is optometry’s primary goal, but the business aspect needs to be profitable in order to support our high-quality service,’ he said.
David recommends to early career optometrists that they find a mentor who can support them, and describe their experiences to them personally and candidly.
Diane offers sage advice: that your first job will not define the rest of your career.
‘It’s just your first stepping stone. Some of my friends weren’t satisfied with their initial choice. It may have been that their passions didn’t align with their workplace or that they were over-worked and under-appreciated. If a job doesn’t fit, you can move on,’ she said.