Thursday, February 09, 2017

A dispensation on career path

We're in the middle of the annual angst of second level students striving for the points they need for their chosen career subjects, writes Brian Byrne. But it can be forgotten that not everyone knows what they want to do at that point in their lives.

Dispensing optician Karen Donnelly, who works in Nichola Kennedy Optometrists in Kilcullen, is a case in point. It was only when she went to work in the mid-90s after leaving school, as a receptionist with an optician, that she found a path to follow.

"I had intended going to college later, doing something else, but the person I was working for suggested I might like to try for a dispensing optician qualification," she recalls. There wasn't such a course in Ireland, so she studied with the Association of British Dispensing Opticians. She qualified in 1996 after three years of study.

"After that I worked with independent opticians in Dublin, living in my home town of Newbridge and commuting each day. That wasn't so bad for a good while, but it was getting worse in recent years." So she decided to cut the commute and took up her current position with Nichola Kennedy last year.

The work of a dispensing optician is what follows when an optometrist completes the examination and testing to come up with a patient's prescription.

"My work involves dispensing the lenses and the frames to suit the prescription and the lifestyle of the client. It can present different challenges every day, so the work is always interesting."

Apart from guiding clients through the myriad shapes and styles of spectacle frames, sometimes showing them one they hadn't considered and which turns out to be just what's needed, Karen's work also has to take into account age and other things.

"Choosing a frame for a child, for instance. They are always looking up at the world around them. Which is why the best shape of glasses for a child are round, so they're not peering over the top of the frame. Also, the bridge of their nose isn't fully developed, so that has to be worked with in choosing the design of the glasses."

At the other end of the age scale requirements also change. Older people's skin is thinner, and weight distribution of glasses is more important. "When people are younger, their nose carries the weight and the ears are just for holding them on. Later that can change."

In addition, older people tend to wear their glasses all the time, and a dispensing optician needs to make sure that the design gives them a wide enough field of view.

Allergies can be an issue too. People are sometimes sensitive to nickel, for instance, a common component of frames, and need titanium which is hypoallergenic (less allergy causing), or plastic. Dealing with these and other elements of the work is both a challenge and a positive.

"No day is ever the same, and I also like it because I'm dealing directly with people," Karen says, and then looks out the window where there's a constant traffic of vehicles and people at the crossroads in Kilcullen where Nichola Kennedy Optometrist is located. "And for such a small village, Kilcullen is busy all of the time."

So is any crossroads in Dublin city, but it's much easier to get to the one in Kilcullen.

This article was first published on the Kilcullen page of the Kildare Nationalist.