It was on the advice of a friend that 27-year-old optometrist Priya Chopra’s career with Visioncall began. Booking a ‘shadow day’ allowed Leicester-based Priya to trial a ‘day in the life’ with the care home eye health specialists, and after a day under the tutelage of Visioncall’s lead optometrist, Vic Khurana, Priya decided to make the leap from her role with a high street chain of opticians, into domiciliary care, becoming a Visioncall Associate Optometrist in early 2019.

“I’m always looking to develop my skillset, and I just thought ‘Why limit yourself?’”, Priya explains. “This side of optometry is very overlooked, but it’s hugely rewarding. On my shadow day with Vic, he gave a patient a new reading prescription, and to see how her face lit up, it really struck me that something as small as a new pair of glasses can make a huge difference to someone’s life.”

The shadow day allowed Priya to see first-hand what life as a Visioncall Optometrist would be like, working in an area of optometry previously unfamiliar to her.

“Not a lot of jobs would say ‘Come in for the day, see how we work’, but I think that Visioncall understands that this type of work is so unfamiliar to lots of optometrists. Before, I probably would have said that I couldn’t do this job, but with the training and support Visioncall offers, my knowledge and experience built up so quickly.”

Priya found the idea of domiciliary care daunting to begin with, but she soon found that the care home environment was more relaxed, and far more patient-focused, than her experience of traditional retail optometry.

Priya explains: “Working with care homes as opposed to on the high street, there’s more flexibility in your day. It’s not governed by specific appointments; your day is yours to make it work however you feel is necessary. There’s no pressure regarding KPIs or sales targets – I don’t have any of that stress, which is amazing. I can just do my job and make the recommendations that I think are right for the patients. I’m there to help people, which I really enjoy. It’s so nice to have the freedom to listen to the patients’ wonderful stories, to have a laugh and a joke with them, but still to get the work done without feeling stressed or pressured.”

In the beginning, Priya was concerned about the challenges that might arise from domiciliary care and working with vulnerable patients, but she explains that she actually found the biggest hurdle to overcome was within herself: “What you’re trained to do on the high street and what you’re trained in at a care home is a very different skillset. You will always get patients who won’t cooperate, or their attention span might be shorter, so maybe you won’t get everything you need from a patient, but in a way, you have to let go of the tick-box mentality and accept that you can fulfil the criteria of an eye test, but in a different way. I think that learning that and learning to keep an open mind is probably the biggest challenge, rather than the patients themselves.”

Now more than two years into her role with Visioncall, Priya has found that a major benefit of the job is the sense of reward she gets from working with care home residents – something that was compounded in the aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Since Covid-19 hit, I’ve realised how important our visits were to patients,” Priya says. “When we’ve been able to return to homes, patients have been so grateful for our visits. I don’t know if I ever really thought about it before, but hearing residents ask where we’ve been and ask us for help shows how important it is that they get regular treatment. These people are in the same environment all day every day, and they rely on doing the thing they enjoy the most if they still can, like reading or knitting, or watching the TV. Helping them to be able to do those tasks again is so valuable. Every day, you notice something that stands out.”

As well as making everyday life easier for patients, there are occasionally cases where treatment has transformed a patient’s life, or saved them from serious health issues, such as in the case of a dementia patient that Priya diagnosed. “She couldn’t communicate, but staff had noticed a change in her mobility and her confidence,” Priya explains. “They booked her an eye test, and I saw straightaway that she had had a bleed at the back of her eye, requiring urgent referral. Without that, she would have lost her central vision, and been unable to communicate that to carers. To be able to send her on for treatment, it made a huge difference.”

Priya works closely with her patient community, visiting care homes around Leicester and the Midlands, while being able to keep a few days a week to work with independent opticians in a retail role. She decided to take advantage of the flexible Associate package offered by Visioncall, opting for two days a week as an Associate Optometrist. The flexible structure of the Associate role meant that Priya could choose her working days, and pick the hours to suit her lifestyle and support a better work-life balance.

“I really enjoy my two days with Visioncall, and the Associate package is great. I have so much flexibility, and Visioncall has always tried to work around what I can do. There are always days available; I’ve never found that there’s been cancellations or that there’s not any work, apart from during the lockdown, which couldn’t be helped. The role gave me the flexibility to keep a day in the community, which I didn’t want to lose, but it keeps my week varied. For me, it works really well; I like the variety, and knowing I can take a day off if I need to.

“The Associate package is great for everyday life too; the hours are very different to retail hours. It’s Monday-Friday, so you don’t have to work weekends, and generally you’re finished by 4.30pm, so you’re home earlier with more time to yourself too. The flexibility is probably my favourite thing about the Associate package that you wouldn’t get otherwise.”

For other optometrists contemplating a career change into domiciliary care, Priya has some words of advice on how to take your first steps with Visioncall: “I would tell anybody to take a shadow day; it’s probably one of the easiest ways to find out what the job is about. Keep an open mind, as it’s going to feel unfamiliar, but know that Visioncall has the right support and training processes in place, and there’s always somebody on the other end of the phone you can talk to.

“I think Visioncall is one of the best companies I could take on this role with, because the support was just phenomenal. They have never pressurised me, and they gave me the time I needed to find my feet, my own rhythm and flow. It’s a great role, a very, very rewarding job – I would definitely recommend it.”

If you’re interested in following in Priya’s footsteps and want to find out more about becoming a Visioncall Associate and joining our nationwide network of local clinicians, we want to hear from you. By becoming a Visioncall Associate, you could be helping thousands of care home residents see better and live better every day, while enjoying an excellent work-life balance and flexible schedule on your own terms. Your dream job is just a click away, visit the Visioncall website today to find out more: https://jobs.vision-call.co.uk/.