Guest Author, Lisa Siqi Feng
Over the past months, we have been constantly bombarded with news of COVID-19 and its effects on the world around us as we knew it. Now, many of our colleagues are facing unprecedented difficult times. Thank you to Young Optometrist Lisa Feng for her efforts in writing the following article.
"If you had mentioned to me a few months ago about the coronavirus or COVID-19, I would have had very little idea of what it is and how it is going to affect me. Little did I know how rapidly it was all going to escalate and how much impact it was going to have on my personal and professional life as a young optometrist with a career that was just starting.
It is difficult to mentally process the rapid and drastic changes which have happened to our world and lives especially when it continues to change day by day. Being a primary care practitioner coming into close contact with the patient, many of us had to grapple with the fear for our own health and safety. Concerns over finances also arise as the stability of our jobs is threatened, many face a drastic reduction in business, loss of jobs, closed business or reduced hours for full/part-time positions. I have felt the feelings of fear, concern, frustration, helplessness and have even questioned my choice of becoming an optometrist. As I begin to navigate through these emotions and talk to my peers, I have come to realise that these feelings are valid and that there are things we can do to navigate through this unique time.
In the midst of anxiety and uncertainty, have hope and know that this will not be forever. The last pandemic of this scale was the H1N1 swine flu in 2009 but most of us were not working adults or even recall the impact it had on our lives. Now that the world and the government have finally started to take this more seriously and act, people have come together (or rather stayed apart), all with the same goal to overcome this virus and return to our normal lives. Things may need to slow down or pause for a while but know that this will not be forever.
Protect each other
If work has been put on hold, then you are in the best position to stay safe and protect yourself and each other. Although you cannot actively help your patients as optometrists now, self-isolating as much as possible is the best thing you can do to protect each other. If the decision is to continue operating, then consider yourself a soldier on the front line and be vigilant about protecting yourself and the patients. Implement changes to the practice to keep social distancing within the practice and develop strict cleaning regimes amongst all staff. Have regular discussions with the practice owner, staff as well as colleagues who continue to work. Membership organisations such as Optometry Australia and from the optometry board of corporate companies have been regularly providing members with updates and offering support and advice.
Our personal and professional lives have all been reduced, restricted and paused in one way or another. While it is important to mourn over what has been lost, this can also be a good opportunity to reflect and reset. Catch up on that much-needed sleep, use the extra time to take care of your mind and body. Video call a friend and ask how they are doing. Now there is finally time for the conference notes that you’ve been meaning to revise and catch up on CPD points. Start that side hustle and pick up hobbies that you’ve been wanting to try but never had the time. We can focus on all the things that have been lost but we can also put the energy into becoming better for this is all over.
Know your options
Every workplace is unique, and it is crucial to explore options with employment for now and the future. The situation is changing daily so stay alert but not anxious and communicate regularly with employers, colleagues and membership organisations such as Optometry Australia for advice on changes in optometry regulations, employment options and financial support. While Young Optometrists NSW/ACT cannot provide legal advice, they can provide support and redirect you to someone who can.
I look forward to the day when this is all over so we can all return to work, fully appreciating all the things we took for granted before."