More than a DO

Stuart Tanner

MECS trained Contact Lens Optician

How long have you been a Dispensing Optician?

I qualified as a DO in 1999, day release at City and Islington College BunHill Row after completing the SMC tech qualification. I then went straight onto the Contact Lens Certificate and qualified in 2001, went on to get a degree with Canterbury Christ Church University and then Contact Lens Honours and post graduate teaching degree.

What made you decide to be a Dispensing Optician?

Not sure I made a conscious decision after A levels, it seemed a natural progression from technician. I wanted a greater challenge, I enjoyed being a technician but opportunities were limited and my employers were kind enough to start me on the course. In fact, I worked for three different employers during my 3 years DO training a gained lots of experience.

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

It’s a great platform to branch out into different areas of eye care. I haven’t dispensed spectacles in many years as I have contact lens clinics or teaching most days. I much prefer the clinical aspect of patient care and the one to one environment of the test room. Never gets boring, always something different everyday.

Tell us about being a Contact Lens Optician.

I still love it after 20 years. Especially now with the MECs training as it has allowed me to go beyond previous experiences, learn new skills and reaffirm our role in eye care. I especially like complex fitting and correcting children, as their reaction to clear vision without spectacles is the best reward.

You have also completed the MECS training, what made you decide to undertake the training?

The opportunity arose partly because of my role as a part-time lecturer at ABDO College, I can pass on my experiences to DO’s studying the Contact lens certificate, it will hopefully make me a better practitioner and improve the care for the patients I see. I also feel it is important to not to be afraid of developing as we get older. Although some of the areas I work do not participate fully in the scheme I’m ready when they are. I have used the new skills to assess and remove foreign bodies and advise on eye conditions as well as GAT measurements.

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

It is so much more than one job title. It can open the door to a wide variety of jobs in retail, primary care, management, research, teaching, training, contact lenses, low vision, optometry etc.

The skills you learn are adaptable, unique and transferable at the same-time, there’s no other role similar on the high street. Prospects? Who can be certain in these times but the skills offer a distinct advantage in a support position for Optometrists and the day to day operations in store.