So You've Passed Your OSCE...
We know how much work and effort you have put into this and also what a bright future lies ahead for you now that you have passed your OSCE and can finally get your Optical career kickstarted.
With 499 candidates taking part, this has been the largest cohort in the history of the OSCE (according to the College of Optometrists), which we hope is a sign that more people are seeing the benefits of pursuing a career in Optometry.
So, now that you are at the start of an exciting new journey, what does the next step look like for you?
Naturally, you will want to assess your options, and chances are that you’ve already done some thinking on this. However, it’s not just about what’s out there – it’s about what motivates you, what goals you want to achieve and how you want to spend your working life.
So here are a few key options to consider...
Working in a Practice
Many Optometrists work in practices all around the U.K, both for multi-national corporations and for independent enterprises. Whilst both options offer fantastic opportunities to develop your clinical skillset and earning potential, there are some key differences.
It’s quite likely that you have completed your pre-reg year in a multiple and have signed up to continue there for at least another year (with a nice pay increase to boot).
This is one of the main strengths of pursuing a career within a multiple, as career development is transparent and there are often specific programs in place to help you climb that greasy pole!
Multiples are also generally fast-paced places to work, which is brilliant if you are looking to test your abilities and see a variety of patients and pathologies early on in your career.
However, you should also consider that your KPI’s and Conversion Rate will always be closely monitored in a multiple. It’s the nature of the game when you work for publicly listed corporations, and it’s something that you should think hard about – especially if you are motivated by providing high clinical standards.
Will you be able to maintain your eye for detail in 15-20-minute tests, as well as maintaining your conversion rate? This is a major reason for most people leaving a multiple.
Often overlooked until later in an Optometrist’s career, Independents are hugely varied in their style and approach to patient care. The common theme within independents is a focus on providing a personal patient service.
This often means longer testing times, extremely loyal patient bases and a greater emphasis on investing in technology (including Optomap & OCT) and higher-end brands (Lindberg, Tom Ford, Silhouette etc).
Another benefit, if you ever want to own your own practice, is that partnership opportunities within independents are often much more flexible (and more lucrative) than those in multiples, as you are working for yourself, keeping your profits and not working to the prescriptions of a corporate head office.
However, the personal touch and the (mostly) slower pace within independents isn’t for everyone. Your KPI’s and Conversion Rate won’t be monitored as forensically as a multiple, but you will be expected to contribute elsewhere – whether that’s stepping in with dispensing, pre-screening patients or even taking the bins out!
This approach isn’t definitely isn’t for everyone, and if you’re looking for a more straightforward role, then an independent probably isn’t the best place to get started for you.
Locum work is a fantastic opportunity for you to get a taste of practices all around the country, seeing different ways of working, using different equipment and also being exposed to a wide range of pathology along the way. As is widely known, Locum work can be very lucrative too, especially if you’re working in areas that are hard to recruit for.
The flexibility offered by locum work also appeals to a lot of people who are looking to be in control of when and where they work.
One consideration with Locum work that has come into effect recently, however, is the impact of IR35 on regular locum work. Simply put, this is a piece of government legislation designed to reduce people’s reliance on contractors (such as locums), in favour of finding an employee for that role.
When it comes to regular locum positions, where previously you may have been able to work every Thursday at a certain practice, this will no longer be the case – as employers will now have to give priority to finding a permanent solution instead.
Additionally, there is less security with Locum work than with an employed role, meaning you’ll have to sort your own pension out, do your own accounts and also accept that if something like COVID-19 comes around, your diary may suddenly look very empty very quickly.
Advice from a 2020 OSCE graduate
“Your soft skills are just as important as the hard skills that you learn at university. When you take the time to explain things to patients, listen to them and address their concerns, you gain their trust in both yourself and your management plan. The patient will appreciate this and will put them at ease. Also, don't be afraid to show your personality; try to avoid feeling rigid and regimented.”
Celina Panchal, Davis Optometrists.
Things to consider
With these all of this in mind, it’s important to consider what really drives you to get out of bed in the morning. Why did you really choose to study Optometry?
Consider the above options and see what resonates with your own personal beliefs.
Are you an aspiring practice owner? Then you may want to look at the flexible options provided by the independent sector.
Are you looking for a fast-paced working environment? Then a multiple is more likely to tick that box for you.
Whatever you do, you will come away with more knowledge than you had previously. Whether you love the path you choose initially or wish you could turn back the clock and choose again, you will have learnt something that you can apply to your career further down the line.
If you are uncertain about your next step – you can book a career chat with our recruitment team, who will help you to understand what is out there and what could work best for you.