It’s been 11 years since Patrick Gunn graduated from Optometry at the University of Manchester but his links with the University are still as relevant as ever. As a Principal Optometrist for Education and Training at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, Patrick plays a big part in organising placements for Optometry students at Manchester. But, of course, that’s not all he does. Discover what else his job involves, how he ended up there and what his tips are for current and prospective Optometrist’s below…
My decision to study at the University of Manchester was quite a straightforward one. I’d already been in Manchester for a couple of years and all three of my siblings studied in Manchester – it’s a brilliant city. I really loved spending time up here and obviously with the University of Manchester’s reputation, particularly for optometry, it was absolutely always my number one choice.
The course was absolutely fantastic. I had a four year gap between school and university and I was really excited to get back to studying. Even as a mature student I was made to feel really welcome right from the beginning. I was just so impressed by the teaching, the support we received and the fact that we got to see real life patients after a short period of time. The mixture between lectures, clinics, workshops was also really good.
I think one of the main highlights were the people that I met and the friends that I made. It’s a very close knit course and I still see the guys off the course regularly. In fact, we’ll be meeting up this weekend! It’s quite an intense course because there’s so much to learn and because of that you do build really close friendships. In terms of course highlights, it’s the clinics and getting to meet patients from very early on. I really enjoyed the amount of exposure we got to patients from the very beginning.
After your final year you get a year to further develop your clinical skills, and to build up your experience under supervision. I was lucky because I got to do mine in a hospital and at a community practice. That placement really set me up well because I have since worked in both a community practice setting and at a hospital.
I always saw myself working solely in a community practice but during my pre-reg year I found myself really enjoying the hospital side and it gave me the motivation to say this is what I really want to do with my career. I still absolutely love the community aspect of optometry and I do work in a practice every week but the hospital side of things is definitely the main part of my job now.
Pathway to the Manchester Eye Hospital
I had a really nice few years working for the royal Bolton hospital during my pre-reg year and then for a short time after which was a really brilliant experience. However, when a job became available here to specialise in glaucoma I was always going to take it.
That’s changed quite a bit over the years. When I first started here I was a glaucoma specialist, and so the vast majority of my work involved examining patients in the glaucoma clinic, making new diagnoses, starting patients off on treatment and then monitoring their ongoing care. I was also involved in some of the other clinics such as cataract services and in some of the other core optometry areas such as low vision, refraction and contact lenses.
Roughly two and a half years ago they created a new job which was titled ‘Principal Optometrist for Education and Training’ and fortunately for me I got it. I love it, it’s absolutely fantastic and it’s definitely, to me, a job of a lifetime. There’s not too many of these types of positions available anywhere so I was really happy and grateful to get it. I still carry on with my clinical work but I’m also responsible for looking after our pre-reg optometrists and the University of Manchester students on placement here. I also help organise placements for second year UoM Optometry students to come and do their week-long summer placements here. We also do low vision training for 3rd year students so even after all these years I’m still strongly linked to the University which is great.
I’d like to think that I’ll be here for the rest of my career. In such a big hospital, that’s very pro optometry, there’s always new things to learn and new areas to develop. I think that as well as being very cutting edge, there’s also an awful lot the eye hospital do in terms of research, training and education. I’d love to see myself working in conjunction with the eye hospital and the University for as long as they‘ll both have me!
The most important thing I’d say is to just enjoy your time at university. You have an opportunity to learn so much so make the most of it. There’s a huge number of opportunities within the optometry department but also in the wider faculty. I remember I was lucky enough to do some lectures on madness in society, something that’s totally away from optometry, and these unique experiences are invaluable.
Make the most of the summer holidays! It’s a great opportunity to get some experience and to volunteer or to save some money to go travelling.
For Optometry students specifically, I’d say think about what you want to do career-wise from an early stage and then just think about what the best approach is to reach those goals. I’d keep an open mind to any career path in optometry, speak to your lecturers about it and they can put you in touch with the relevant professionals.