Picture: Vincent enjoying his 'birthday cake' at work - who said work can't be fun?
Our 'Unconventional Optometrist' column is where we chat to optometrists who are a bit out of the ordinary! Do you know anyone who we should feature? Let us know!
Here's our first Unconventional Optometrist. Vincent Ling is an optometrist who works full-time in a rural Queensland ophthalmology practice.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into what you are doing
Hi, So basically I was a new graduate who started my career with OPSM in Wagga Wagga. I spent about 5 months with OPSM before I decided I wanted a change. I did enjoy my time at OPSM and gained a lot of my skills there. I did a placement at Omni Eye services and I really enjoyed how optometry was practiced in the US. There was a strong relationship between optometrists and ophthalmologists which isn’t quite as apparent here. When an opportunity came up and to work on a coastal area, it was too hard to pass up.
Q. What is a typical day at work like? Is it a full-time or part-time position?
Full time. So I work 4 days a week and it is very hard to describe a typical day of work. This is what makes my job so fun. A wide variety comes in through my door since often my boss will have a full book and she will not have time to take any more patients. I do many of her follow-ups such as cataracts, glaucoma, uveitis, red eyes. She gives me full control to change medications or management plans as I see fit. Other stuff that comes in through my door include emergency referrals from the hospitals, often I will see the patient first and if I don’t feel comfortable managing whatever is through my door, my boss takes over. Sometimes if a patient cannot afford to see an ophthalmologist, they will see me and she will ‘duck’ in too have a look. All my consultations are bulk billed besides any scans that I may need to do. I really enjoy my job and I look forward to waking up everyday and going to work.
Q: What are some benefits to working in your unique situation?
My boss said to me during the interview was that I would be “under her protection.” It certainly does feel good being able to call the shots and when in doubt, she is always next door. There will be days where I do not need her help, but there will be days where I would be calling her every 10 minutes. I have a walking Kanski next to me so I feel comforted by that, however, there will be days where she is in theatre, charity work, conferences and I am left alone and I am responsible for the patients. It is certainly tough having to be the one that breaks the bad news. It never is easy to tell a patient they will lose their vision permanently or they will be requiring injections for life. I realise how complicated the art of surgery is, whether it be lids or cataracts. I am also responsible for calculating the lens implants that goes into people’s eyes, ordering them and making sure they are ready for my boss on time. This is probably the most stressful part of my job, as unlike glasses, changing a lens is much more difficult. My boss does double check my work. I am surprised how the IOL industry is evolving, we rarely implant monofocal lenses , most of the time we deal with multifocals or extended depth focus lenses which gives patients functional vision for both distance and near. However these patients are selected very carefully. Given the many happy patients outcomes I have seen, getting an IOL done when I undergo presbyopia is certainly something I would consider. Hopefully the IOLs will have come close to a normal human lens. I realise there is so much I am ignorant about when it comes to the eye and this unique situation allows me to realise this.
Q: How did you get into this unique area of optometry?
I found this job online, I think ophthalmologists are starting to see the worth in having an optometrist within their clinic. I cover about half my wage on consults but I believe I bring much more than monetary value to this clinic and I think my boss shares this belief. Especially where I am in rural Australia, ophthalmologists are often very busy and so having an optometrist with therapeutics can really lessen the load.
Q: What advice would you give to other optometrists who also wish to pursue this type of optometry?
If you take a keen interest in pathology, it is absolutely worth it. Although I cannot speak for what your responsibilities are at other ophthalmology clinics, I certainly couldn’t really think of anything, that I would change about my current job.
Q: What was your most memorable patient encounter?
I have plenty of memorable patient encounters that I can’t really single out one. I do build very strong connections with patients because I get to follow them up regularly and make the choices that impact their ocular health. I suppose the ones that are most memorable primarily revolve around delivering bad news to the patients.