Industry profiles, Ophthalmic Careers, Optometrists

Specsavers Stories – Jolene Cheah

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.

Specsavers stats
Name: Jolene CheahSpecsavers experienced optometrist opportunity
Current position:
Optometry development consultant – clinical systems
Location: Melbourne
Years within the business: 8

Why did you pursue an optometry career, and how did you enter the profession?

My parents were extremely organised with our health appointments growing up. I distinctly remember being dragged to regular dental, GP, and eye appointments. I never enjoyed having my teeth checked or seeing the doctor, but always found seeing the optometrist fun. So, when it came time to decide what I wanted to pursue, I chose optometry as I felt that it was my chance to pay it forward and provide good experiences within the context of healthcare.

How did you come to work at Specsavers, and what attracted you to the business?

During my second year of studies, Specsavers offered optical assistant roles to students in our course. Like many of my peers, I took on this opportunity, which ultimately provided valuable insight into the optical industry. When I graduated, the experience I gained in-store gave me the confidence to take on a position in a regional Specsavers store. On top of this, Specsavers stores often have multiple optometrists working at the same location. This gave me the comfort I needed as a graduate – that additional support was only a door knock away.

It was also in these early years as an optometrist that I saw firsthand the difficulty patients particularly in regional and geographically remote areas face accessing healthcare. The patients I saw were waiting up to six weeks to see me and my colleagues, and a further five weeks to see an ophthalmologist if this was required. I felt empowered to work for a company that aims to provide affordable and accessible eyecare to all.

What was your first role within the business, and what did it entail?

My first role as an optometrist was as a graduate in a regional store. I worked alongside three to four other optometrists and together we saw a large volume of patients through all walks of life and variance in clinical presentation. While initially challenging, I believe this experience was crucial to my development in the formative years of my career.

Since then, what growth opportunities have presented themselves?

Throughout my experience in a number of Specsavers stores, I have had the opportunity to undertake courses to supplement my knowledge along with supporting graduate optometrists in their development.

A year ago, I joined the optometry department at support office as an optometry development consultant (clinical systems). The transition from seeing patients to an ‘office’ based role has been a huge learning curve but incredibly worthwhile. Our clinical systems team looks at ways in which we can utilise technology to make life easier for our optometrists and ultimately provide better care for our patients. More specifically, my role has been to develop an eyecare model that allows patients to undergo a full eye examination in our stores, while the optometrist consults in an off-site location.

Can you outline your top career highlights since joining Specsavers?

My top career highlight would be the first time I conducted a full eye examination to a patient two hours away, via a video call. It was the culmination of months of hard work across various teams and something I am extremely proud of.

Not only that, but its success provides an opportunity to increase access to eyecare services, which is one of the reasons I joined Specsavers.

What is your most interesting clinical case? 

It is hard to identify the most interesting case, however one of my most memorable case was a patient who presented with vague trouble in her peripheral vision. Upon examination of her peripheral retina, it was clear that she had a choroidal melanoma as it was significantly raised. I promptly called the ophthalmologist, and he was able to see her later that day. It is one of those cases that remind me not to overlook the important role we, as optometrists, play in being a primary eyecare provider.

What excites you most about turning up for work each day?

I am lucky that every day I get to work alongside an eager and hard-working bunch of people who are always willing to help. In addition to this, every day is different, and I get to draw on my past experiences working clinically in practice, to better support our optometrists and in turn our patients.

More reading

Specsavers Stories: Michael Angerame

Specsavers Stories: Eilish Devlin

Specsavers Stories – Henny Jaakkola

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