More than a DO

Beth Ralph

MECS trained Contact Lens Optician

How long have you been a Dispensing Optician?

I joined Boots Opticians as an Optical assistant in 1999, following sponsorship I qualified as a DO in 2003.  I later went on to complete my contact lens qualification in 2012 following further sponsorship from Specsavers.

What made you decide to be a Dispensing Optician?

As with many careers “I fell into it”.  I knew I wanted to work with the public and do something great to help people.  I had a friend who worked at Boots Opticians who encouraged me to apply for my first position in optics.  At the time I’d been offered a position as a trainee retail manager for a sports clothing company but I just knew it wasn’t for me.

After joining Boots, I then fell in love with the career. There’s nothing like that first time a child collects their specs and walks like a spaceman while their face comes alive.  The first time I fit a teenager with contact lenses and see the confidence thrive.  The best reaction I’ve ever had to fitting an presbyope with multifocal lenses was “I feel like me again!”.

I now work with everything from children to first time progressive spectacle lenses and contact lenses.  I & assist my Optometrist husband on his low vision domiciliary visits and I’m now just about to embark on a new adventure as a Professional Services Consultant for Positive Impact as they launch a new myopia management contact lens.  I don’t only help the vision problems of today but I’m part of saving the sight of the future.

What's the best part of being a Dispensing Optician?

My mission in life is to inspire others and be inspired.  My career changes every day and every day is a new adventure. I’m passionate about customer service ensuring every individual receives the best possible care.

Tell us about being a Contact Lens Optician.

My role as a CLO means I get to be a specialist in my field.  I assist both professional eye care practitioners and the support team in meeting the customer needs.

As a contact lens wearer myself I take pride in fitting the most up to date technology that offers the best possible vision and comfort. All the new products on the market I try myself first as I wouldn’t put something on someone else eye I would put on my own.  I get to be at the forefront of technology with my own vested interest.

I’ve assisted independent practices in increasing their contact lens turnover significantly by putting new systems in place and setting up regular replacement contact lens care plans.

I’ve trained both support staff and eye care professionals in customer service, contact lens and dry eye products.  Being a contact lens optician isn’t just about being a clinician but it’s about understanding business too.

You have completed the MECS course, tell us more about that.

I’ve completed my online learning for the MECS qualification and hope to sit exams in the future.  Unfortunately, there is no MECS in place for my area so I’m waiting on the decisions to be made at a local level before proceeding any further.

However, I feel it’s a great opportunity for eye care professionals to support the hospital & GP surgeries.  We have the knowledge and the equipment to assess, diagnose and where applicable treat eye conditions.

GP surgeries often do not have access, specialist knowledge or appropriate equipment.  As a result, I regularly see eye conditions misdiagnosed and patients issued with incorrect treatment plans.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about training to be a dispensing optician?

Being a DO is the best career option I could have chosen.  I have a professional qualification with no student debts.  It’s how I met my husband too.

There are many companies who will sponsor you to qualify.  First look for a position with an optician.  There are many roles for support staff such as reception, optical assistant, customer service etc.  If you can’t find anything advertised then write to all the local opticians with your cv, specifying your interest.

If you enjoy the role and want to learn more approach your employer to ask for sponsorship.  A good grounding in English, Maths and Science helps although there are access courses available if you don’t currently have any qualifications.

The biggest challenge is you must have a passion for people, that’s all types, shapes and backgrounds.  Being a Dispensing Optician gives you the opportunity to make lives better and be a sight saving hero of the future.