Why I went regional

Early career optometrist Richard Cheng from Specsavers Nowra Stockland in New South Wales graduated from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) with a Master of Clinical Optometry in 2019. He discusses how he made the decision to join a regional practice as a graduate optometrist. 

In my early years at university, it never crossed my mind that I wanted to practice regionally. Born and raised in Sydney, the metropolitan city was my hometown and had become such a familiar, comfortable place. Whenever I was asked where I wanted to work when I graduated was always, “Oh probably just a Specsavers practice close to home”. At the time it just made sense. Why would I look further? I was already working at a metro Specsavers practice close to home as a casual optical dispenser during my years at university and I was content.

It wasn’t until my fourth year of university when we attended clinical preceptorship in regional NSW that my eyes were opened to the thought – “what if”. The idea was daunting to say the least, however as my clinical placements continued, what was once a thought started to bud and blossom. The reasons I ended up deciding to work regionally as a graduate optometrist were three-fold. One, it would give me the opportunity to live independently, and that in itself would be a priceless learning experience despite the mountain of chores I would take on. Two, I wanted a more personal relationship with patients and a greater sense of responsibility within the community. And third and most importantly, escaping Sydney traffic!

I am lucky enough to be part of the Nowra team and the decision seemed like a no-brainer. The location was regional enough to still be able to commute home relatively conveniently as it was only two hours south of Sydney. It’s relatively coastal so it’s quite convenient to explore the stunning Shoalhaven region and visit local pristine beaches. But most importantly, the clinical and retail teams are incredibly friendly and skillful – it felt like I had struck a gold mine.

Starting my career in a regional to practice was perhaps one of the best decisions I’ve made. It pushes you outside your bubble and allows you to grow both personally and clinically as an eyecare practitioner.

What better way to kick-start your career than facing challenges and applying all that hard work put into your studies through the duration of your degree? Sometimes just a little push is all you need to find the passion that pulls you.

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