Meet Rachel McClelland, Ophthalmic Director in Specsavers Launceston
What was your background before joining Specsavers?
I left college halfway through my A-levels, much to the dismay of my teachers and my family, many of whom considered I was throwing my life away. I was fed up of sitting in a classroom and I wanted to go and experience the real world of work. I had no idea how I wanted my future to pan out so when I secured an administration job for a car dealership I figured that would do for the time being.
Tell us a bit about your career journey at Specsavers?
My Specsavers journey began one summer evening in 2006. Having applied for a job at Specsavers in Exeter, I was invited to a recruitment evening at the store. I was quite nervous. I had no idea what to expect and absolutely no optics knowledge. However, somebody saw potential in me that evening because a few days later I was offered the job. I welcomed every opportunity to learn new skills and expand my knowledge.
In March 2007, I applied for and was offered a position in Specsavers Tavistock, which was much closer to where I lived. It was here that I was given the opportunity to train as a dispensing optician. I studied by distance learning through Anglia Ruskin University, whilst working full time. Once qualified in March 2011, I was offered the position of Registered Dispensing Optician in Specsavers Okehampton. Not long after this the opportunity to study Optometry at Plymouth University arose and I had to apply. In July 2011 I found out that my application had been successful and in August I then moved to the Newton Abbot store that my ophthalmic director at the time had recently taken over. I worked at Specsavers Newton Abbot at weekends and through the academic holidays until I finished my degree, when I then began my pre-registration optometry year. I worked between Newton Abbot and Launceston until August 2016 when I moved to work at Specsavers Launceston full time. I did ILM 3 in 2017 and in August 2018 I completed Pathway. At the end of September 2018 I bought my ophthalmic director’s shares and became the Ophthalmic Director at Specsavers Launceston.
How has Specsavers supported your development?
The ‘grow your own’ culture within Specsavers really resonates with me. I had no idea if it was the right path for me when I joined Specsavers, but I quickly learned that if you’re prepared to work hard, they will support you in whichever career path you choose. I have worked in 5 different Specsavers stores over the past 12 years and I have been supported by the director’s and the teams in every one of them. Each of the store’s directors have afforded me the opportunity to develop my skills, my knowledge and confidence and coached me through various aspects of my journey. Their support has enabled me to achieve the successes I have had in my career so far.
What clinical advances have you seen lately?
With the increasing pressure on hospital eye departments, there has been a movement within the profession, to provide community based Enhanced Optical Services. Although there is some variation in the available schemes across the country, in many areas there are NHS commissioned schemes available to provide patient services including Minor Eye Conditions such as acute red eye or flashes and floaters, intra-ocular pressure refinement, stable glaucoma monitoring and post-cataract assessment. These schemes enable community optometrists to conduct examinations, monitor certain conditions and advise on the appropriate management for the patient, often negating the need for the patient to attend a hospital eye department. This helps optometrists utilise their skills and expertise to provide patient care, whilst reducing the pressure on GPs and hospital eye departments.
How are you driving forward Optometry in your local community?
Education is key… educating our team, educating our customers, educating our community. The role of the optometrist is changing and although the days of asking “is it clearer with 1 or 2” are not over, there is now a much greater emphasis on eye health during eye examinations. Therefore, it is important that the team understand what the optometrist does. The team are then able to impart this knowledge to our customers, informing them about our eye health clinics and the role that the optometrist plays. In addition to this, we like to promote the Specsavers brand within our community. From sponsoring the local sporting events, to providing spectacles for the local fashion show, we are making sure that the local community know that Specsavers is the place to go for all their eyecare and hearcare needs.
Where do you think you have made real difference to someone’s eye health?
If I’m completely honest, I think I make a difference to every patient’s eye health everyday. For some patients it’s the reassurance that their eyes are healthy or that their change in prescription is normal. For others it is detecting potentially sight threatening conditions and referring them for the appropriate treatment. Hearing the sigh of relief is just as important as receiving the thank you card. The satisfaction I get from being able to make a difference to somebody’s life is what makes it all worthwhile.
In regards to training and developing yourself and your clinical teams – how do you manage to stay at the leading edge of your profession?
Between us all, we attend numerous CET events and educational conferences each year to ensure that our knowledge is always up to date. We also utilise the material provided by our professional bodies, as well as the learning modules available through Specsavers iLearn (our online learning portal). Whether it’s the latest professional guidelines or training on new equipment, we always make sure that our knowledge is up to date so that we can provide the highest standards of care for our patients. In addition to this I am also a Clinical Tutor at the University of Plymouth. This role encourages me to keep my clinical skills and knowledge refreshed, whilst supervising the students and helping to shape the next generation of optometrists.
What makes you most proud of your time at Specsavers so far?
I have had many proud moments during my time with Specsavers. Qualifying as a Dispensing Optician, qualifying as an Optometrist and passing Pathway are a few, but I think the thing that makes me most proud of my time at Specsavers is becoming a partner. I hadn’t been at Specsavers very long when I decided that partnership was my long-term goal and 12 years later I finally made it!
Describe the Specsavers culture in three words:
Professional, attentive, innovative.
What advice would you give someone looking to join Specsavers?
If you’re fortunate enough to be afforded the opportunity, take it! The infrastructure is in place to ensure that career development is always an option, you just have to be prepared to work hard. When I joined Specsavers I had no idea my life would turn out the way it has, but I think I’m a real-life example of what can be achieved through a career at Specsavers.