Optometrist Patrick Friis tells us how flexible working at Specsavers has allowed him to study for a master’s in advanced clinical practice.
Before joining Specsavers Patrick had numerous roles in research and education. ‘Specsavers has not only allowed me to perform primary care eye examinations and contact lens care but importantly referral refinement for glaucoma and community eye care service assessments for patients with special eye health concerns. While also providing supervision for our two current pre-reg optometrists and our trainee contact lens optician.
‘With Specsavers backing I have been able to study a MSc Advanced Clinical Practice in Ophthalmology with Moorfields Eye Hospital in London alongside my day job. My directors were on board and allowed allocated study time to ensure I complete it.’
Working at Europe’s largest teaching hospital – St James’s Hospital in Leeds
St James’s is located just outside Leeds City Centre where Patrick works in the emergency eye care clinic. He takes emergency referrals from other optometrists, GPs, A&E and other medical specialties.
‘This can include the most urgent cases from picking fragments of metal out of people’s corneas to treating acute sight-threatening infections, inflammations, unexplained loss of vision and any other cases that other practitioners want assessing quickly.
‘I have performed specialist contact lens fitting to improve the vision of patients with pathologies such as keratoconus, and cosmetic contact lens fitting for those with damaged or injured eyes.
‘My hospital work also includes clinics working with children with learning difficulties and developmental disorders to assess their eye health and potential need for spectacles.’
Flexible working at Specsavers
Patrick’s flexible working set up means he can provide eye care in the community need with Specsavers while developing his professional abilities in demanding hospital clinics with input and development from expert consultant ophthalmologists.
‘This combination has allowed me to maintain and enhance my skills whilst developing new skills and implementing the knowledge and theory I gain from the academic content of my master’s course,’ he says. ‘It gives me a hybrid work week incorporating all dynamic clinical elements and keeps things interesting as I thrive off a challenge.’
Benefit for patients and supporting the NHS
The roles Patrick hold coincide with each other and benefit one another for example for community practice patients he sees at Specsavers.
‘Community work is particularly important as a significant portion of our patients would struggle to attend a hospital eye department further afield due to travel and mobility issues.
‘I am often able to avoid onward referral to hospital care by applying knowledge and experience gained from my hospital clinics and the master’s course, along with my ability to prescribe medications, to manage a wider range of eye conditions in practice.’
‘Where ophthalmologist input is needed, I am also better placed to co-manage patients by discussing cases with on-call eye doctors over the phone and, where appropriate, forming and implementing jointly developed care plans in practice.
‘This benefits the patient as at Specsavers we can see them quicker, with less waiting time in a more comfortable, less intimidating and more local setting than if they had to attend a hospital eye department.’
Patrick notes that this helps to support the NHS, reducing pressure on eye departments and GP practices by keeping patients off their lists. It also saves the NHS time and money on seeing the same patient in multiple settings.
Agreeing flexible working
Patrick talks about how he was able to talk to Specsavers colleagues in agreeing his current working week.
‘When I first joined the practice, I was already working for the hospital. So, I was looking for three days in practice to sit alongside this. The directors at Specsavers recognised the mutual benefit for both of us and provided the flexibility I needed.
‘The funding for my masters came up a year or so later. I discussed this with my directors who yet again understood the mutual benefit and worked with me to reach a setup that balanced the practice’s needs with my professional development.’
Patrick’s advice is simple when it comes to talking about flexible working – just be clear on what you want and ask for it. ‘Earlier in my career I wanted a flexible work setup but assumed it would not be possible and was nervous of asking my employer.’
‘I’ve found that if you make sure you work with people who truly care about your professional development and wellbeing, and that you present them with a clear proposal as to the benefits to everyone involved, my directors have always done their best to accommodate flexible working.’