Learning practically at The University of Manchester

Final year Optometry student, Emily Mather, is entering the final few months of her undergraduate degree here at The University of Manchester. With a pre-reg year in London just around the corner, Emily reflects below on the clinical experience she has gained throughout her time in Manchester and the skills she has picked up along the way…


In first year, our clinical experience was mainly with volunteer patients practising what we’d learnt in lectures earlier in the week. We’d work in pairs and would get lots of hands-on practice. This was great as we got to enhance our communication skills with patients without being under too much pressure and the volunteer patients were always really nice. It’s challenging getting to grips with certain techniques at first, but with practice it became like second nature!

In second year, we worked more independently, completing full eye tests on volunteer patients in the Carys Bannister Building Clinics. We also had dispensing clinics, allowing us to get to grips with different lens types and frame fittings. These sessions were great as they allowed us to put the theory into practice. In second year we also had Contact Lens clinics and these are so much fun! We learned all about different lens types and got to practice different types of contact lens fitting on fellow students.

We also got to spend a week in the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital in second year, observing the different clinics. We got to visit the different departments in the hospital such as the Emergency Eye Department and the Paediatric Clinic and got to see the different roles that eye professionals have.


Now in final year, we have spent the majority of our time in clinics. The Further Investigative Techniques (FIT) Clinic is my favourite. In these clinics’, patients attend with various different conditions (I have seen Dry Eye patients, patients who require a cataract referral and patients with early Macular Degeneration) and with the help of the supervisors we investigate the patient’s signs and symptoms and treat/refer as appropriate. These clinics are great, as you get to see the extended role that optometrists have.

I’ve also conducted full sights tests on members of the public. This was nerve-racking at first, but my supervisor was always on hand to help me with anything if necessary. These sessions were great because we got to practice our refraction techniques every week whilst also getting a first-hand look at what practising Optometry in the community is actually like.

We also attend various different sessions at the hospital in final year. Low Vision is great, as you get to use and handle all different types of magnifiers, and practice different refraction techniques, adapting your routine for a low vision patient. These sessions allow you to get really hands-on, but you’re always under supervision – so if you have any questions someone’s always there to help!

We also attend Binocular Vision Clinics – these are amazing as you get to see what happens beyond a sight test, and what the investigation might be if you refer someone to the hospital. A lot of time in these clinics is spent observing, but they’re still so useful, as it helps you revise and understand your Binocular Vision – which might be tricky at first. Once you start to see techniques in practice it’s a lot easier to understand them.


All of the experience you gain at university will aid you massively in both your exams and when you are a practising optometrist. Visiting different clinics really helps you decide what sort of optometrist you might like to become, and what really interests you. My time in the hospital helped me decide I’d like to practice hospital optometry – and next year I will be doing my pre-reg year at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. I’m really looking forward to this, as it will allow me to put all my skills into practice.

I was awarded the AOP (Association of Optometrists) Student of the Year in January 2020. This is awarded to someone who has demonstrated initiative and drive to improve their fellow students’ participation in, and awareness of, optical issues. I went to an award ceremony at the ExCel in London, which was amazing, and to actually win the award was the icing on the cake. It was amazing to be there as part of a celebration of all the fantastic people in the profession. It was an absolute honour to represent The University of Manchester at such a prestigious event.

Winning the award towards the end of my time at university is a real highlight for me. The award is not just a testament to a lot of hard work over my three years at University, but also a testament to all the hard work of all the other students and staff at the University of Manchester. I would never have won the award if it wasn’t for all the amazing and inspiring people in the Carys Bannister Building!

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