Kejal Shah is an Ophthalmic Domiciliary Director, her region covers Surrey and Kent. She spoke to us about the main reason she chose Specsavers Home Visits, the people she meets and the skills she has learnt through Domiciliary.
Hi Kejal, thanks for talking to us, first of all, what’s your journey with Specsavers been like up this point?
I studied at Aston University where I qualified as an Optometrist in 2004. Since then, I’ve been working with Specsavers. I did my Pre Reg with Specsavers Hertford and then went on to do the Partnership Pathway at Specsavers Bethnal Green. I had my own store where I was Ophthalmic Partner at Specsavers Feltham. I left after about five years’ service and moved to Australia for a few years. I then came back as a Domiciliary Partner with Specsavers and I’ve been doing this for about five years now.
What was the main reason for choosing to go into Domiciliary?
Domiciliary is absolutely amazing. First and foremost, it’s to help people who actually need it the most, these are people who may not have had their eyes tested for a number of years.
Many people we see are not able to go out to the high street, so to go into their homes and conduct an eye test for them is wonderful. To talk to them, to help them with some new glasses, referrals and magnifiers, really amplifies that helping those people is the best part of the job.
It’s been a real eye opener for me, and especially with the year everyone’s had. It’s so rewarding going into these homes and speaking to people who may not have had much face-to-face interaction recently.
I worked in a store for so many years and was looking for a change. I decided to try Domiciliary as a locum and realised then that I loved it, so I went into it full time. I personally can’t see myself going back to working in a store now.
It’s been a really difficult year for everyone, how has the pandemic affected your day-to-day working life?
I think the pandemic has been an eye opener to people that Specsavers Domiciliary exists. A lot of people are housebound, vulnerable, and shielding, they never knew that this service existed. The fact that we’re able to go out and help them while they’re shielding has been really great. These are people that, due to the pandemic, haven’t been able to see their family for months, but we can still go out and interact with them and give them some company for a period of time which is fantastic.
What other challenges are you usually faced with?
There’s plenty of challenges, every day is different, every day is a challenge. You don’t know where you’re going to go and you don’t know whose house you are going to walk into, and every patient that we see is different.
The biggest challenge we have is emotionally separating from patients because these are people that are sometimes bed or chair bound for a lifetime, and sometimes even listening to their story is really touching. We’ve got to remember we are there to do a job, but it’s hard, keeping that emotional distance can prove to be quite challenging.
As you’re going into people’s homes and personal space, do you ever find Domiciliary to be intrusive at all?
No, I don’t think we ever find it intrusive. I think it’s more the other way round because these patients are quite vulnerable, they can be scared as to who’s coming into their houses. We’ve almost got to assure them and say that we are here to help. We’re here to make them feel comfortable, and to reassure them that we’re going to do the right thing, and we’re not there to take advantage of their situation.
Is there enough variation in your day to keep the role interesting and engaging?
Yes absolutely, no two days are the same, every day is different, every day there’s a different challenge and there’s a different person that you see. As an example, two days ago a man told me he had lost his glasses three years ago, and he sat on them after one day; he used to be a car mechanic, and he thought repairing it would be like a car windscreen, but it turns out he super-glued his lenses upside down and for three years had been looking through upside-down varifocals!
When you’re out and about, do you travel on your own or with a team?
We always travel in teams, whether it’s a clinic with one Optometrist with one Optical Assistant or a clinic with two Optical Assistants, you will always be accompanied on a working day to successfully carry out your job.
What skills have you learnt through Domiciliary?
I think the main quality you need for this job is patience. A lot of the people that we see are elderly, they’re a little bit slower to answer, or to respond, they take their time choosing the glasses and so patience is a virtue in this job.
What support do you receive as a Domiciliary Optom?
We’ve got a back-office team in Surrey who are always at hand. They will support the team that’s out on the road, if we need any support whatsoever, they’re just a phone call away. If there are any emergencies, they will jump into aid. In addition to this, we’ve always got the head office support on hand and they will help if you need any advice.
We take security very seriously and so there’s plenty of health and safety training given and risk assessments are regularly carried out to make sure you are safe. Specsavers and the people around you really do make sure you feel comfortable in your working environment.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking at going down the same path as you?
I think a lot of people are scared to go into Domiciliary because they’re anxious about going into people’s houses, but it’s the most rewarding job and it’s not as daunting as it sounds or as it feels. There’s plenty of rewards in there, plenty of opportunities, plenty of scope. I would encourage all optometrists to try domiciliary.
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