Why did I train to be an Orthoptist? From an early age my sights were set on being an Optometrist. Whilst studying for my A-Levels I took a Saturday job, working for a large chain of Opticians. This work provided me with invaluable experience of working with the general public but it also gave me insight into the world of ‘high street’ Optometry. I decided that maybe Optometry wasn’t for me, so whilst still being very interested in eye health care, I looked to see if there were any alternatives; that’s when I came across Orthoptics!
Orthoptics is a relatively small profession; there are approximately only 1,450 Orthoptists currently in practice. The Orthoptic degree is offered at only three universities in the country, The University of Liverpool, the University of Sheffield and Glasgow Caledonian University.
Working as an Orthoptist is always interesting; no two patients are ever the same. Each patient is unique, both in their eye condition and also their individual needs and requirements. We deal with a lot of paediatric patients in Orthoptics, so we also see some highly amusing characters in clinic!
Orthoptists are often the first clinician’s paediatric patients and adults with diplopia (double vision) see when they attend an appointment at the Royal Eye Infirmary. Orthoptists investigate, diagnose and treat defects of binocular vision and abnormalities of eye movements; such as misalignment of the eyes (strabismus or squint), double vision (diplopia) and reduced vision (amblyopia).
Some eye conditions we diagnose may be indicators of other health problems, such as multiple sclerosis or tumour. Orthoptists therefore play an important role in helping to spot these serious conditions.
I enjoy running my own clinics and also that I work closely with other eye specialists such as Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, Nurses and HCA’s at the Royal Eye Infirmary.
We are a clinical placement site for all three universities, taking students on placement for around 23 weeks of the year. One of the aspects about my job I really enjoy is supervising Orthoptic students. It’s great to work with enthusiastic students who are keen to learn and enjoy seeing patients in clinic. Often the students may be assessing patient eye conditions first hand for the first time, which they have previously only read about; this can be a very enlightening experience to share with the student. Working as a clinical tutor can be time consuming and requires effort, but the pay back seeing students developing into reflective practitioners is extremely rewarding!
Where do I see the profession going?
The revised National Clinical Guideline for Stroke (RCP, 5th edition, 2016) lists Orthoptists as key members of the single multi-disciplinary team on stroke rehabilitation units. We are working with the stroke MDT’s at Derriford and Mount Gould to provide high quality Orthoptic care for patients who have had a stroke.
Orthoptists are increasingly working in extended roles within Ophthalmology in areas such as glaucoma and macular. Skills for working in extended role are being taught on the orthoptic degree and we currently have an Orthoptist about to start work in the field of macular.
We are one of only three centres of excellence for nystagmus. Whilst this extended role work is very exciting, it is perhaps a blog for another day!
Lizzie is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Orthoptics, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.