BV or not BV? That was the question

I remember reaching a crossroads in my career a number of years ago. I was nearing the end of my first year of training as an Orthoptist and on a clinical placement in a hospital in the West Midlands. One afternoon, I sat in with an Optometrist in order to understand the work that they do, and remember being struck by the diversity of patients, not to mention the equipment, that was to be found in that little dark room.

And so I was faced with a dilemma, the same dilemma faced by any game show contestant; should I gamble and switch to a career in Optometry, hoping that it would actually be as interesting as it had appeared for that single clinic, or leave, having had a brilliant afternoon, with the certain prize of a career in Orthoptics, a job that I knew gave me enormous satisfaction.

I elected to take the safer option and continue my studies in Orthoptics, and once qualified, went on to work for a couple of years in the Hospital Eye Service. Whilst I can categorically say, hand on heart, that I enjoyed every single day I worked as an Orthoptist, I soon felt it was time to expand my horizons and return to being a student. And so I became an undergraduate again, trading my clinical autonomy for a clinical supervisor and my regular salary for yet more student loans.

Before long, I had completed my finals, and was ready to be let loose on the public again as a pre-reg. In keeping with many pre-reg students, I imagined that all my patients would fall into distinct categories; contact lens wearers were all contact lens patients, safety spectacle wearers were occupational patients, people with squints were binocular vision patients, and so forth. With time, however, it became quite clear that people do not simply fall arbitrary groups as often the boundaries are somewhat blurred. Imagine my confusion when a short while in to my pre-reg year, I was confronted with a contact lens wearer with a squint who needed safety spectacles for work.

Prior to embarking on my pre-reg year, I recall wondering how I would be able to actively apply by binocular vision knowledge in my day-to-day optometric work, in the hope that my years of bonding with an occluder would not have gone to waste. It soon became apparent that binocular vision is everywhere, and manifests itself in the unlikeliest of ways, hence my occluder and budgie stick have become better friends than ever.

My answer to people who may ask whether my years spent training and working in Orthoptics were a good use of my time, or whether they simply delayed my entry into the world of Optometry, is that, without doubt, they have proved to be some of the most valuable years of my professional life.

I truly believe that unless they have one eye, every patient is a binocular vision patient.


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