When people decide to work at Specsavers, they’re joining a company with a purpose to change lives through better sight and hearing – hence why more Australians and New Zealanders choose the optometry provider over any other.
As one of the largest employers in the ANZ optometry sector, Insight sits down with an employee each month to hear about their growth trajectory within the company.
Name: Emma Ingram
Current position: Fly-in fly-out mobile optometrist
Years within the business: 9
Why did you pursue an optometry career, and how did you enter the profession?
I finished high school and felt like a kid in a toyshop umm-ing and ahh-ing over all of the options before me. Should I choose the chemistry set? The toy microscope? The bug catcher or the Lego set? Every career sounded like something I could happily spend the rest of my working life doing. To keep my options open I started a science degree. The plan was that this would buy me some time before committing to a career path.
During my first year of study, I started working at Specsavers and that sealed the deal: I was going to become an optometrist. I transferred over to optometry, and I haven’t looked back since.
How did you come to work at Specsavers, and what attracted you to the business?
Like most uni students I found myself looking for a weekend job to broaden my diet beyond instant ramen and toast. This was while I was trying to decide on a career, and I had been thinking about optometry but knew very little about it as a job. It sounds cliché but the “should’ve gone to Specsavers” tagline from the classic ads played in my mind at the same time my local store was hiring; and the rest is history!
What was your first role within the business, and what did it entail?
I started out as an optical assistant in 2014. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of pretesting, dispensing and troubleshooting, as well as developing my patient communication skills. That job really opened up the world of optometry to me and afforded me such a head start on the dispensing units we did at uni.
Since then, what growth opportunities have presented themselves?
After graduating I completed the two-year Graduate Program through Specsavers. During these years I got to implement a project that focused on in-store training between dispensing staff and optometrists. The Graduate Program was so supportive and nurtured us as early career optometrists finding our feet even as the pandemic hit and threatened our progress. I also completed my Advanced Certificate in Children’s Vision through the Australian College of Optometry (ACO) which allowed me to challenge myself in an area that I wasn’t very confident in prior to studying the course.
Can you outline your top career highlights since joining Specsavers?
In 2020 I participated in a virtual outreach through The Fred Hollows Foundation. I delivered a webinar to the students at Divine World University in Papua New Guinea, going through cases I’d seen in clinic and how they might be managed in PNG. It was an excellent experience getting to talk with the students and learn about the different limitations and opportunities to provide healthcare overseas.
Now that we’re out of lockdowns and the world has opened up again, I’m hoping to do an in-person outreach in the future.
What is your most interesting clinical case?
I’m a mobile optometrist which means I get to fly all over Australia and work in lots of different regional and rural clinics. These rural practices are where I get to see my most challenging, exciting and interesting patients.
A few months ago, I saw a young woman who’d been suffering from severe dry eye symptoms as well as some signs of ocular allergy. She’d tried the lubricants and over-the-counter drops her GP and pharmacist had recommended but had found no relief. She’d recently started receiving injections of dupilumab for atopic dermatitis but wasn’t aware of the potential ocular side effects. After a week of steroid eye drops her symptoms were gone and we could start talking with her GP and dermatologist about her long-term management.
What excites you most about turning up for work each day?
I’m convinced I have the best job in the world. I get to spend all day talking with people, getting a glimpse into their lives and how I might be able to improve their quality-of-life through their sight or ocular health. Every morning I get the excitement and thrill of not knowing whether I’ll be removing foreign bodies, urgently phoning the hospital about a retinal detachment, initiating treatment for a child with amblyopia, or anything else from the great wide world of optometry. The work we do is exciting, impactful, challenging and life-changing. If I could go back in time and have a conversation with my 17-year-old self I wouldn’t want to change a thing about this career I’ve chosen.