George & Matilda optometrist REBEKAH BRYANT has leveraged the challenges of rural practise to her advantage and is enjoying the benefits of clinical variety in her Dubbo practice.
Rural eyecare is often constrained in terms of resources, which means the eyecare needs of the community is often sustained by the local optometrist. For Ms Rebekah Bryant, this represents an opportunity for her to practice within a wider scope.
It was her locum work at George & Matilda (G&M) Dubbo in mid-2023 that served as the gateway to rural optometry. Here, Bryant discovered benefits such as variety of practice, convenience and lifestyle that consolidated her decision to pursue a career in regional optometry.
Bryant began her career in the medical field working in a hospital laboratory after completing a Diploma of Laboratory Technology. After several years of this, she opted to transition to optometry and was enticed by the appeal of a dynamic, interactive and patient-centric career that was still within the health field.
Since graduating from optometry, Bryant has worked across both corporate and private practices and has undertaken locum work across metropolitan and regional areas.
“Working at the Dubbo practice as a locum provided an opportunity to meet some of the patients and ophthalmologists whilst also being able to explore the region. The variety of ocular conditions was of particular interest to me and a practice equipped with OCT and OPTOS is valuable for monitoring and collaborative care with local GP’s and ophthalmologists,” she says.
Bryant explains the accessibility of Dubbo, and ease-of-access to an airport means she can more easily visit family and friends as well as its rich offerings of leisure and lifestyle, with Bryant exploring the region in her downtime.
“Dubbo having a regional airport also meant that I didn’t have to worry about a long drive to visit my family and friends. On my days off I was able to visit some of the local attractions such as the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Western Plains Cultural Centre, The Dubbo Gaol, and the Royal Flying Doctors Service,” she says.
“Housing affordability in recent years has been at the forefront of a lot of people’s concerns and although Dubbo is still affected, the more relaxed environment and lower costs of living compared to the city is appealing.”
Due to limited access to ophthalmology, Bryant enjoys the added challenge of the increase in co-management and monitoring of ocular conditions. As a result, collaborative care is a common feature of her workday, which sees her working with a wide range of health practitioners.
“Regional areas can have less access to healthcare and eye specialists such as ophthalmologists so I find myself diagnosing and referring patients for ocular issues more frequently. I have found in regional areas there tend to be more older patients, more ocular pathology and foreign body removals but also more children with binocular vision issues due to less access to paediatric ophthalmologists. As a result, this means that the collaborative care between all of us as health professionals is a big focus,” she says.
To maximise convenience to the patient and prevent the need for follow-ups, appointments are comprehensive, with Bryant completing all testing requirements in one visit whenever necessary. She says the added responsibility of monitoring, which was often delegated to an ophthalmologist in metro practice, makes her work all the more interesting.
“Some of our patients travel hours to visit us so it is really important that we do our best to reduce follow-up appointments whenever we can. This and the added responsibility of monitoring ocular conditions more frequently is a contrast to what I found in metro areas where ophthalmologists are more easily accessible and monitoring was more routinely done by them.”
Prior to establishing regionally, Bryant had early exposure to G&M thanks to her locum work which ultimately made her decision to become a regional G&M optometrist that much easier.
“Having done locum work at a couple of different G&M stores, I already had a feel for the company. The staff in the stores I worked in seemed to really enjoy their work, which was a good sign for me,” she says.
G&M’s strong leadership and support team was another enticing attribute for Bryant. Additionally, the company’s partnership model also attracted her to join, as it opened up future opportunities to buy-in.
Ultimately, being a G&M optometrist provides Bryant with the clinical flexibility commonly associated with independent practices but still having the support that larger groups can provide.
“I have found working for G&M has an independent feel and I can explore particular clinical interests whilst still having the support and knowledge base of a group,” she says.