Sonia Jethwa is a domiciliary optometrist and partner based in Loughborough. She shares how her different roles have shaped her career and led her to working in Home Visits.
When I was nine years old, I went to have my eyes checked. When it came to the duochrome test, I was asked, “Which is clearer? Red or green?” Being young and curious, I wanted to know what the correct answer was. This simple question ignited my fascination with eyes.
Although I was a little disappointed when I discovered there wasn’t a right or wrong answer, my interest didn’t diminish as I got older. After secondary school, I went to the University of Sheffield to study orthoptics and started working in the fabulous NHS.
My curiosity was still there
While I gained invaluable experience diagnosing and treating patients in a hospital environment, optometry was where I wanted to be. I wanted to broaden my skills and find the best opportunities for me. So, I went back to university while working in Eye Casualty.
After qualifying, I worked for various companies in employed and locum roles. Ultimately though working in a store wasn’t for me. I felt like I was treating people as customers rather than patients. I wanted to feel more like a clinician. That’s when I decided to try domiciliary.
There were challenges at the beginning
I knew that I’d be seeing more patients with physical and cognitive disabilities, which wasn’t a problem because of my NHS experience. What surprised me were the difficult conditions some of my patients were living in.
They could have trouble getting around or be bed bound. Others need 10 minutes to recover from taking 20 steps to their front door and back. When you add the issues with their sight, it’s not surprising that they struggle. It’s not a choice for them to live that way.
It made me want to do something. While I couldn’t do anything about their mobility, I could improve their vision. As well as the practical benefits, it would empower them to do more and ask for support. Now I focus on the fact my patients need help.
That’s why my advice for anyone interested in domiciliary work is to try it more than once. You may not like everything you see at first. But after a few times you’ll get a feel for what it’s really like. And then you’ll never look back.
Domiciliary is the right home for me
Working in the public and private sectors in different settings has been beneficial for my development. It’s broadened my skills, given me perspective on how I can do things better and what I want out of my career. I’m in optometry because I enjoy dealing with eyes. And I’m in Home Visits because I can genuinely help people.