Jessica Gowing is a dispensing optician at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, UK. In this interview she tells the International Opticians Association about her work and career.
I graduated from Cardiff University where I read Biology. I loved my degree and knew that I wanted to do something in the health care sector after finishing. It was then that I saw an advert for a trainee dispensing optician job at Leslie Warren Opticians in Sevenoaks. I thought this would be ideal as I could attend the day release course at City University whilst working and getting hands-on experience.
I was really lucky to start my career at Leslie Warren Opticians, as they gave me a brilliant training in dispensing. The practice was very focussed on clinical expertise and also saw a lot of children with learning disabilities. It was this element that I particularly loved, so when I saw a job come up at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) I knew it would be my dream job! I started at GOSH in June 2014. The first part of my job was to set up the dispensing service. This literally involved starting from scratch. I had to open new supplier accounts, choose frame ranges and even order furniture and equipment etc. It was then a lot of ‘on the job training’. I also spoke to some other DOs in hospitals in the UK, who were really helpful and gave me a lot of advice. Since then, the service has really taken off. We’ve employed a second DO, Rosie Wilson, and now see hundreds of patients every month. GOSH is now able to offer a one-stop-shop for parents and carers who can get everything done in one trip without having to visit a private optician for glasses. Importantly, we have grown specialist knowledge of difficult fittings that many of our patients require and have developed a number of innovative frame fitting techniques.
GOSH is a tertiary referral centre and consequently sees and treats a wide variety of complex and very rare eye diseases. It is also one of four craniofacial units in the UK so a lot of the dispensing I do is very challenging and requires me to be very creative and think outside the box. I work really closely with Rob Barrow at Spec Care who I often ring up to discuss ideas about tricky modifications I want to do with the glasses to make them fit. Many of the patients I see are under three years of age and I often have to see tiny babies that are only a few weeks old, who have had cataract surgery and need aphakic glasses. I mostly see outpatients but I am sometimes required to go and see patients on the wards also.
I love everything about my role and I really think it is the best job in the world! The best thing is obviously working with the children. They make me laugh every day and are so inspiring and resilient. They make the most out of everything despite all the difficulties they face. It is really rewarding to feel I am helping, if only in a small way, to give them the best fitting, most comfortable pair of glasses possible and to help them to achieve the best visual outcome.
There are always fresh challenges and new things to learn. I am very lucky to work so closely with such an amazing team of people including orthoptists, optometrists, vision scientists, doctors and an eye clinic liaison officer.
Working solely with children all day every day might not be everyone’s cup of tea! If it is something you enjoy and you have the personality for it, just go for it. Try to see all the children that come into your practice to gain as much experience as possible ensure you have the best possible range of paediatric frames available.
Topic: Outstanding Opticians