Unprecedented. Unmotivated. Confused.
Those were the words swirling around in a cacophony when we came to realise that university this year would be changed indefinitely.
It was near the end of March when we found out that the situation of COVID had reached its boiling point – a sense of panic striking students to return back to their homes interstate and overseas for the uncertainty of what was to come.
When it came to optometry, the cloud of confusion covered our minds severely. For myself, learning the course and the way to become a fully functioning optometrist meant that I relied heavily on practicals and conducting the tests and concepts I learnt to grasp the notions. Learning through memorization with the rote learning that I grew so accustomed to during high school was something I quickly realized was ineffective – it passed the threshold of remembering but faltered when it came to understanding. Going to the labs, using the appropriate apparatus, and asking questions directly upon making mistakes in class was the way that I gradually was able to grasp the ideas being taught. This was how I was able to understand the concepts in a holistic point of view and how it is relevant in a clinical setting – deviating away from learning just how to distinguish between one module to another.
But with life transitioning virtually, this method was eradicated, and I was left to submerge myself back into comfortable method of memorizing and watching others carry out the tests on YouTube videos as my main point of reference. One thing I quickly learnt was that comfort can be woeful and the transition was difficult to say the least.
Add the stress of the world and my fellow peers and I swiftly realised that that it was going to be an arduous period.
How on earth were we meant to cope?
Fast forward a couple of months and it has reached the end of the year. Two semesters have passed, and the sun never looked brighter. The situation around the world is still a pressing issue but the initial turbulence of shock and panic has passed. And with every tumultuous period, there was an equally constructive period of learning and adapting to the changes. To reflect back on the time and some strategies that I was able to implement to make life just that little bit more tolerable and easier, I broke it down into three principles (an idea that I’ve started to implement into other aspects of my life).
The triple Cs.
The years to come will remain uncertain as we progress through optometry but one principal takeaway that I have garnered through this year was that resilience is key. Being able to bounce back and realise that this is a collective struggle that we will eventually overcome is an idea that needs to be ingrained into our minds as students.
We have faced hurdles before and we will continue to face them but with the right prioritization and organization, it can be less stressful than we conjure it up to be in our heads.
Onwards and upwards!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into Optometry.
I completed my Optometry degree from India in 2017. After the completion of my undergraduate degree I worked for a while in Nepal and I was also involved in the eye camps organised in Nepal by Eyes4Everest. I flew to Australia last year to study Master of Optometry at UNSW.
I come from a very small village in the mountain region of Nepal and the people there still do not have access to proper health services. This was the reason that I always wanted to contribute to the health sector there. Since there was not even a single optometrist in my hometown, I decided to study optometry so that I could provide eye care services for them.
Tell us about your typical day of studying and working.
Being an international student in Australia, it was a bit challenging for me to balance my work and study in the beginning. But time has taught me this and now I find it ok. I work 3 days a week and the rest of the time, I study.
What do you miss most about Nepal? What do you love most about Australia?
I miss my family. I have never been away from home for such a long time. When I was in India, I still used to visit them every 3-4 months. But after coming here it has nearly been two years since I last saw them. Though I often talk to them through video chat I still miss their presence.
I like everything about Australia. Everything is easily accessible and organised here which has made life easier. I also enjoy going to the beaches during my days off.
Do you have any goals for your optometry career?
Once I finish my degree here, I plan to go back to Nepal and start working there. My dream is to open a practice there. Starting from a small practice in my hometown, I want to expand it to other remote areas as well. I especially want to work in small villages where people are still unaware of the advancement of technology.
Working in a peaceful environment that is very far from the city of chaos is something that I am looking forward to.
What keeps you sane outside of your work life? Do you have any hobbies or passions you pursue?
When I am a bit stressed with work and study, I talk to my family and I like sharing everything with them. I consider this as my therapy.
When I was at school, I used to play basketball and I wanted to continue playing, but due to some circumstances, I stopped playing. At the moment, I have started being more conscious about my fitness and I have started learning boxing. I would not say it is my passion, but I enjoy boxing.
What advice would you give to other optometrists, who may be in a similar position to you or are striving to be in your position?
Well, I am not sure if I have still achieved that position where I can advise people. But from my experiences, I would say not to give up on your dreams. There might be some difficult times where you want to quit but in the end, they are just a part of the journey to your dream. Be positive and just keep doing what makes you happy.
It’s become a part of the uniform for many of us, and masks have become essential in combatting the spread of COVID-19, however, it has given rise to increased reports of associated dry eye.
This happens, especially if the mask is poor fitting, and exhaled air funnels upwards and across the surface of the eyes. In turn, this may accelerate tear film evaporation causing ocular surface irregularity and discomfort.
This problem can become exacerbated especially in mask wearers who have pre-existing dry eye, contact lens wearer and people who have to use a mask for an extended period of time, use in air-conditioned environments, use in front of screens (e.g. health care workers, food preparers etc.). In turn, they may find themselves touching their face and eyes all the time, possible with unwashed hands, which may increase their risks for an infection and spread of the virus.
Tips we can offer our patients include: ensuring the mask is well fitted, using lubricant drops and limit screen time and time in an air-conditioned environment. Although MADE can make us uncomfortable, don’t ditch the mask!
Moshirfar, M., West, W.B. & Marx, D.P. Face Mask-Associated Ocular Irritation and Dryness. Ophthalmol Ther 9, 397–400 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40123-020-00282-6
White, D.E. MADE: A new coronavirus-associated eye disease. Healio.com. June 22, 2020. Accessed Sept. 10,
Student's Corner is a new space which is designed to introduce some of the amazing Optometry Students - delving deep into their likes, dislikes, struggles and current mood. Introducing Jahin Tanvir! Our first student feature from the University of Canberra.
Name: Jahin Tanvir
Student Year/Workplace: 2nd year Optometry at the University of Canberra
Favourite Disease: Retinopathy of Prematurity
What about Optometry really grinds your gears? (if any!): That some people think that Optometrist just sell you glasses.
What drives your passion for Optometry? Being able to ensure an individual can relish the gift of sight. I don’t think anything beats you playing a role in someone being able to see better and experience the things they love with a clearer perspective.
Something you discovered about the uni not everyone may know? When they say, “uni is where you find yourself”. I had to be there first-hand to realise the gravitas of that phrase. Being in a school environment, you’re pretty much in a bubble and university really opens that up to so many opportunities.
Would you rather be indoors or outdoors? I used to think I was inclined more towards indoors but being at home so much this year has shown me how much I yearn to be outdoors. Outdoors guy for sure!
Something others may not know about you: Parallel to my academic inclinations in Optometry, I’m also a writer and it’s an area I want to pursue throughout my career. I want to promote the idea of ‘you are not limited by your degree’.
What song do you play that instantly lifts your mood? Down by Jay Sean. Absolute classic!
Blue Blocking Lenses
Blue Light and the Macula
Studies have shown that by reducing blue-light transmission through blue blocking lenses by 50%, approximately 80% of photochemical damage to the retina could be reduced.
Contrast and Asthenopia improvement
The rationale behind blue blocking lenses for screen use is the improvement in contrast, improve visual comfort and cut down internal reflections and back surface reflections from the lenses thereby reducing glare. Blue wavelengths are the shortest wavelengths within the visible light spectrum and therefore most likely to scatter.
We also don’t know how much blue light needs to be removed to reduce asthenopic symptoms. As of current, the majority of blue coatings reduce blue light by roughly 10-25%. Optometrists can consider recommending blue blocking lenses to patients who are under high exposure to blue light rays from artificial and natural light sources, for example office workers behind screens and under fluorescent lights.
The scattering effect can cause glare and reduce contrast. Also, blue light may interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm; therefore exposure in the evening may potentially interfere with sleep. However, more and more we are exposed to artificial lights at night e.g. smartphones and tablet use before bed; and this is especially when the circadian system is most sensitive to light-induced phase delays. Studies have shown this can interfere with sleep and physiological processes, causing subjects to sleep later, reducing evening sleepiness, reducing in alertness the next morning and reducing melatonin secretion.
There is more research required, understanding that patients will need individualised solutions
Advice beyond blue blocking lenses that you could also recommend to your patients:
Have you ever had a young patient with reduced visual acuities at distance and near that could not be explained by refractive error? You suspect that they’re malingering or wanting to have glasses?
Have you heard of Streff Syndrome?
Streff Syndrome, also known as non-malingering syndrome, has been described as a functional vision problem. It often involves reduced or blurred distance and near vision, poor eye co-ordination and eye movement, a reduction in visual field and a reduction in focusing.
These symptoms are a result of anxiety or stress. Stress is a physical, mental or emotional reaction caused by a change that disturbs or interferes with the body’s normal equilibrium. It is often detected by teachers and parents due to a decline in academic performance, changes to attention and focus, or behavioural changes. Stress can impact visual health and function. Focusing can become difficult, and a tunnel vision effect can occur.
Streff Syndrome has more commonly been detected in females between 10-14 years of age. The condition is often self-limiting, but it is important to identify the stress causing the problem and taking the necessary steps to resolve it.
Screen Time During Quarantine
It seems like over-night covid-19 hit and suddenly, we are stuck at home with nothing but our screens to entertain us. While for our inner introvert this may be the ultimate dream it also has its pitfalls. Our social lives, work lives and CPD events have all moved online. With increased time at home & our lives now virtual, our screens are the portals to the world. Even before corona virus, Australians on average spent over 10 hours a day on screens. Also, many of us use multiple devices at the same time e.g. looking at your phone while also watching TV. It is only natural that screen use will increase in the current situation.
While increased screen use will not damage your eyes, the increased demand on your eyes can have negative effects. Often the underlying cause is a borderline eye problem that has been exacerbated by the increased screen time. This is because the visual demands of computer work are unlike those associated with most other visual tasks. Most people will experience some form of Digital Eye Strain with sustained use of a digital device. It may present as eye strain, headaches/migraines, blurred vision, neck/back pain, dry eyes, and/or reduced concentration. You may also find it hard to switch off and have disrupted sleep.
The good news is that there are 10 easy things that you can do to limit the negative effects associated with screen use:
While we navigate our new lives in isolation, it is more important than ever to stay connected online with our families, friends, & work. However, we must balance this screen use & try to keep things in moderation by using the simple tips out-lined above.
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."
Now we've all got (a lot) of time of our hands, if your Instagram is anything like mine it's been inundated with the tastiest images of everyone's home cooking adventures. Here's a few below that are focussed on nutrient dense foods, which are great for eye health!
But firstly, what micro-nutrients are important for eye health?
Whilst there are many multi-vitamins on the market, it is best if you can absorb your nutrients through your diet! Eat your vegetables both raw and cooked, for example if you look at orange peppers, you can more readily absorb Vitamin C eating then raw, whilst more easily absorb Zeaxanthin eating them cooked.
Note: you can substitute the vegetables for others things in your fridge, try: peppers, collards, kale etc.
1. Add all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 30-60 seconds or until smooth. Enjoy!
If you try any of these recipes, make sure you tag us @yoptoms in your creations!
If you told me 3 months ago that I would be unemployed and had to move back in with my parents, I wouldn't have believed you. But hey, here we all are! Money's tighter, budgets are smaller but these are a few financial tips that could help;
Disclaimer: We strongly advise you to speak to your banks, lenders, legal advisor and/or accountant. This information is not to be interpreted as constituting professional advice and YO are not liable for any income loss taken from above advice.