An Interview with Letitia McLaughlin – ABDO Contact Lens Distance Learning Course 2021
Congratulations on your Certificate of Merit for the 2021 Contact Lens Distance Learning course with ABDO. What was your background and experience prior to the course?
My career in optics started 10 years ago with qualifying from ABDO College as a Dispensing Optician (D.O) in 2018. During my course, I also became an ABDO Local Lead for Greater Manchester. This role allows me to network and support D.O’s in the surrounding area and promote the importance of our role within the optometric practice.
What made you want to embark on the CL course?
My strengths in patient healthcare while being a D.O allowed me to explore the possibility of becoming a Contact Lens Optician. I wanted another challenge to expand on my ability to help solve patients’ corrective solutions. I wanted to be multi-skilled within the optometric practice, so the CL course was the next logical step.
What was the structure of distance learning like?
As a previous recent distance learning student through ABDO College, I was well prepared for the structure of weekly assignments with supervised practical elements. The course requires you to be very disciplined in your approach with time management and training to maximise your supervisor and ABDO tutor in supporting your online learning.
What was one of the most valuable things you learnt from the course?
Fully understanding all the different contact lens solutions available to patients was extremely valuable. It has allowed me to be confident in my ability to discuss corrective CL solutions with patients that have more complex needs.
What was the biggest challenge?
Training and learning through Covid-19 has been the most difficult situation I think all students have experienced in these last 2 years. The course required us to be patient-facing to learn our practical skills, but simultaneously not being able to do this due to furlough and social distancing was very challenging.
As a more general challenge, I think slit lamp practice will always be the most daunting element to learn during the course.
What have you been doing since the course ended?
I have recently been promoted to assistant manager of our practice while supporting 2 students D.O’s with their qualifying exams. I’ve also been successful in my application to become an Optometry Tutor for Manchester University. This role will help me support future Optometrists with their dispensing skills.
I have a true calling for teaching and I feel my skills from my development through both distance learning courses has allowed me to have a better understanding of how to support students through their studies.
If you had one piece of advice for peers interested in specialising in contact lenses, what would it be?
Ensure you have the best support network when you start your course, most of the information you learn and develop will be from your supervisors. I couldn’t have done this without my first supervisor Janine Timperley and second supervisor Imran Patel.