More than a DO

Elaine Spear

Dispensing Optician

How long have you been a Dispensing Optician?

I qualified in 1993.

What made you decide to be a Dispensing Optician?

I was a classroom assistant in a special school, and used to take the children to the nurse’s room for the ‘Optician’s Visit’. I was fascinated how the eye test was carried out. I was also very impressed by how the Dispensing Optician fitted and repaired glasses. Many of the specs were custom made for the various children’s needs with their disabilities. The optometrist was looking for someone to come and join the practice, so I jumped at the opportunity and started college day release at City and Islington.

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

Changing people’s lives. Literally helping people feel good about themselves with a new look. Helping children feel good about their glasses is particularly rewarding, especially when they are worried about what their classmates may say at school. And of course, taking the time and finding the correctly fitted frame for children and adults with disabilities. Many parents and carers bring children and adults to see me as they know I have this special skill.

You currently work for a small independent practice, tell us about working there.

I’ve always worked for independents in London. I moved to the Isle of Wight (IOW) 12 years ago and was lucky enough to get a job in an independent with four practices. I get to travel around the island as I occasionally work in all four practices, although I am based in one. It was like coming back into the community, as I previously worked in a business district in Fleet Street, London. It was great to see children and people of older ages again. People who live on the IOW don’t like to travel far for services, so we really get to know our community well when they attend our practices.

You previously worked with children and adults with learning and physical disabilities tell us more.

At school, I had worked as a volunteer at the school fete of a local special school, and felt an affinity for the children I met that day. I then managed to get a job in a special school as a one to one carer for a very special little boy with multiple disabilities. I worked in this school for four years as a classroom assistant. I would assist in classroom and care duties, and assist visiting professionals such as the physio, occupational and musical therapist. We would go out on trips and visits to local places to give the children experiences outside of the school environment. It was a special time in my life working at the school, and I stayed in touch with many of the children as I became the visiting DO.

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

Yes, do it. It’s a great profession. You can make a difference to people and really help them. Work on your personable skills and really talk to and especially listen to the patients. This will give you rapport as you get to know patients on their repeat visits. Building relationships will enhance yours and their experience.