Real-life story - Teniola Ibrahim
Teniola’s work experience in the eye department at her local hospital made her realise how dynamic an orthoptist’s role is.
How I got into the role
I always knew I wanted to work within a healthcare setting, one which involved treating children. During my A-level studies, I had taken part in volunteer work with children and this prompted my interest. In addition, I find human biology fascinating.
I did some research about possible healthcare careers and came across the role of orthoptist. I discovered that it was a hospital-based role, treating both adults and children with eye movement disorders. This satisfied all the aspects I looked for in a career, combined with my interest in the eyes and brain anatomy.
During my work experience, I shadowed an orthoptist in the eye department at my local hospital. I saw what a difference the orthoptist made to the patients’ quality of life by treating their double vision, improving the vision in a lazy eye and managing squints.
The few days of work experience made me realise how dynamic the role was, as each case was unique – making every day exciting. That’s when I decided to enrol into the orthoptics BSc undergraduate programme. A day after my final exam, I was offered my first job as a qualified orthoptist!
What I do
In a typical day I see patients with simple or complex needs, their ages ranging from a few months old to 90 years old and beyond! These patients are referred to the eye clinic in the hospital outpatient by the optician, health visitor or other specialities within the hospital.
We commonly see children with a lazy eye that we help treat with patching to improve the vision in the lazy eye. We see adults and children with squints that are treated by surgery or botulinum toxin injections by the eye surgeon.
Patients with double vision are frequently referred to orthoptists and it is my job to determine the cause of the double vision and manage the condition with treatment such as prisms to join the double vision together.
I am responsible for assessing the patients before and after these treatments to make sure that the best outcome is achieved. As an orthoptist, I am an autonomous practitioner and my role requires good decision-making skills on the diagnosis and management of patients.
The best bits and challenges
The staff and patients make work a joy, especially the children. It’s great to know you’re making an impact on a child’s future.
My role is a daily challenge and I love that because it makes every day interesting.
Life outside work
I enjoy exercising and take part in classes such as aerobics to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
One autumn, I took part in a 10k blindfold run at the Olympic park. It was an amazing experience; raising money for the Royal Society for Blind Children who do great work for visually impaired children.
Career plans and top tips for others
As an orthoptist, there are many avenues to specialise in such as special educational needs, low vision, stroke and glaucoma areas. In my current role as an orthoptist, I work closely with the neuro-ophthalmologist in the eye department to diagnose and manage patients referred to the eye clinic with neurological conditions that can manifest into eye movement problems.
These include patients with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or patients with brain tumours. Sometimes, we as orthoptists, are the first people to identify these neurological conditions after assessing the patients eye movements.
This is an area I have a great interest and hope to specialise in.