We caught up with Optical Assistant, Natasha Mallen, to hear about her role and why 18 years into her optical career joining Specsavers Home Visits has been the most rewarding.
Hi Natasha, tell us about your career?
At 16, when I was in the sixth form, I didn’t know which career path to take. I had a part-time job working for a sports retailer and got a taste for earning money. I told my mum I was dropping out of school and going to work full time. My mum said, “if you want a job, you’re going to get a proper job”. She got me a full-time job working at the same optician she was working for, and I’ve stayed in optics ever since. I’m 34 now, so that’s 18 years! Moving into domiciliary I was told, “I don’t think you’re going to like it” but I absolutely loved it and loved the people.
After having my children, I worked part time in store, but I would always dream about being back in domiciliary. I approached a competitor, but they didn’t take on part-time employees, and so a friend who worked for Specsavers encouraged me to send my CV in. I’ve been here ever since.
How did you find the move to Specsavers?
There’s definitely a family feel at Specsavers. They are behind you supporting your personal growth with so many training courses on offer to steer your career, I feel my future is in good hands. I have more time to spend with patients to find out about their needs and how they’re using their glasses. At other domiciliary companies, the pace felt too fast and rushed. There was little time to start up a conversation and less care and consideration around the dispense.
Specsavers really lets you spend the time to get to know the customer. With a home visit, you are in a customer’s natural surroundings and can chat about the photos you see in their home, or their books and hobbies around them. All these things help to provide a dispense that meets the needs of that customer. When I compare it to the retail experience of a store, you rely on what a customer chooses to tell you, in a home visit you see it for yourself.
I remember one lady had a massive church organ in her little bungalow and we helped her by providing the right prescription to play it. It makes me happy in my job that I’m giving the best service and providing the right products.
If you would like to find out more about our Domiciliary opportunities at Specsavers, including our paid shadow days, click the button below to register your details and we will happily share more information with you.
What has been the biggest domiciliary challenge for you?
I really enjoy my job and wish there were more hours in the day, to spend longer with patients and help more people with their sight. I can see first-hand how desperate people are to have their eyesight checked. You see a lot of elderly people who need your time, and you can’t rush them. Each day is packed full, and I like the fact that you don’t have the quiet and busy periods you have in store.
The great part is being out and about and not stuck in one place. It’s so rewarding going into someone’s home, I love chatting to patients and asking them about the photos on their wall, asking about their wedding days, past jobs, war stories, family events, etc. Just being there, talking with these people is so lovely. I’m quite a chatty person anyway, so it’s nice for me, it’s nice for them and we both get something out of it.
What advice would you give to someone considering domiciliary?
I definitely think you’ve got to be a people’s person, to have empathy, a lot of patience and be non-judgemental. I was always close to my grandparents growing up, so I love being around older people. Of course, it’s not just older people we see, we also see many people that are unable to visit a store, and you can see they really struggle.
With the year everyone’s had, our roles and jobs in domiciliary care are more important than ever. Our patients have had less human interaction, and we provide the company they need and crave. Some patients just love having someone to talk to, and that’s an aspect of the job that has been truly rewarding.
You find out so much about people when you get them talking and appreciate how they live. They may have been in an accident that’s left them paralysed and that’s why they can’t take care of their home and you want to help. It means so much to a patient when you help them with new glasses and lenses, truly rewarding. Working in domiciliary has been a brilliant move for me, and if you’re tempted to try it for yourself, I think you’ll love it.
Is this something you can see yourself doing for a long time now?
I’m a single parent with two young children and happy with where I am. When my kids are older, I would love to manage a home visiting branch, maybe even become a partner in the future. I don’t think I could ever go back to a store.
What 3 words would you use to describe your Specsavers journey up to this point?
Rewarding, interesting, refreshing.