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By Rhiannon Riches
Communications Manager


Chris Smith, a member of Optometry Victoria, worked as a locum on and off for over a decade from 2005.

‘Prior to working as a locum, I worked in an independent practice for two years on the Gold Coast, before assisting an optical dispenser open a new practice, also on the Gold Coast,’ Chris said.

‘I then started to locum because I wanted experience across various practice environments,’ he said.

He worked across Australia in various independent practices, along with Laubman & Pank, OPSM, Budget Eyewear, Bupa Optical, and Lens Pro.

‘I worked across a diverse range of practices, from high-end to low-end, from metropolitan to regional locations, and treated patients from young to old, and from low to high socio-economic status,’ he said.

A three-pronged approach helped secure a steady flow of locum positions for Chris.

‘I used direct recruitment largely through Optom Locum Service, formerly known as the Phillip Fent Locum Service.

‘I also used word-of-mouth, building networks and relationships from place to place.

‘I also advertised and replied to ads in Optometry QLD/NT magazine, SEE, when I was a member of that state organisation,’ he said.

Chris has now made a shift in his career, as locuming afforded him the opportunity to undertake further study for an MBA.

‘In addition to practising as a Clinical Optometrist at Vision Eye Institute, I now provide management consulting services, specifically to the health and human services sector,’ he said.

While no longer working as a locum, Chris said one of the benefits was travelling extensively in Australia, and often re-visiting the same practices multiple times.

He said some optometrists may think that locuming is isolating, but he found the opposite to be true.

‘It’s not professionally isolating at all in my experience. Often when I travelled to new places I would get invited to social events by colleagues,’ he said. ‘Sometimes, other locums I knew would happen to be working in the same area, so we would catch-up socially. The optometry community in general is very supportive of locum optometrists’.

Working as a locum also has its challenges, Chris said.

‘You need to be resourceful – if a globe on a slitlamp breaks, you need to be able to replace it, or know who to ask.

‘When I was a locum, it was general practice that the Practice Manager would spend some time with you, familiarise you with the local GPs and ophthalmologists, specific equipment in the practice, its policies and procedures, and so on,’ he said.

‘I also touched base multiple times with the then OAA [now Optometry Australia], usually regarding queries to do with ABN legalities and superannuation payments.

‘The association was able to help me with regulations when I was working in a new state, such as needing a Working with Children’s Check.

‘This was prior to national registration, when registration was state-run. I had six registration numbers – one for each state,’ he said.

Locum business expands to NZ

Optom Locum Service is expanding its services from Australia into New Zealand.

Optometrist Philip Fent established the company in 2002, after he experienced difficulty getting an optometrist to cover for his Warringah Mall practice in Sydney. Since then, the company has grown to employ five staff covering Australia and, now, New Zealand.

Although Optom Locum Services has often placed New Zealand optometrists in roles in Australia, it hadn’t been formalised until now. Mr Fent said he is hoping to attract both New Zealand optometrists to locum in Australia and Australian optometrists to locum in New Zealand, allowing both to travel and work either in New Zealand or Australia. 

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Acknowledgement of Country

In the spirit of reconciliation Optometry Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.