Friday, July 06, 2018

Pamela got her life back, by working local

After years of commuting to Dublin from Newbridge, optician Pamela Loughman literally has a new life since coming to work with Nichola Kennedy Optometrist in Kilcullen, writes Brian Byrne.

"I knew every turn and pothole intimately on the N7," she says, then recalls the time last year when Nichola texted her with an offer of a job. "The opportunity to work locally came just at the point where I knew I needed to change. Where I was just wasn't able to give me what I wanted at this stage of my career."

Six months in, working on a three-day basis in Kilcullen, that change has certainly happened. "I'm a different person. Completely chilled. My family now know it's OK to ask me what kind of day I've had, and when I get home I'm able to do other things after not having slogged my way from Tallaght in traffic. I've got my life back."

After a career in large organisations — originally with McNallys in Dublin, the last 17 years in Specsavers in Tallaght — Pamela is also enjoying other aspects of working in a small town practice. "It's a different pace, and I'm involved in everything. In a place like Specsavers, you just do your job testing people's eyesight. All the other bits — visual field tests, photographs, dispensing, choosing glasses — are done by others. It's like being part of an assembly line. It is a model that works, but one that I was getting very tired of."

Pamela now gets to do everything at one stage or another, depending on who is away or how busy things get at Nichola Kennedy Optometrist. "So I do all the tests, the pictures, and with a time slot that is longer, sitting in the room with them I also get to know the people I deal with much more. If Karen, the dispensing optician, isn't here, I go out with them to help choose the glasses. And when the lenses come in, any of us literally make the glasses. It's a lot more fun."

Pamela comes from a Newbridge Army family background, and graduated as an optician from Kevin Street in Dublin. From there she joined the Donal McNally group, which in some ways was a precursor of the Specsavers model here, spreading across Dublin with extra branches.

She has seen big changes in the business since those days. Not least the visibility of the profession. "When I started it was still very discreet. You couldn't advertise, and spectacles were kept in drawers and patients simply were shown their options. There wasn't any emphasis on fashion, and while that might appear superficial in health terms, when you are putting something on your face and wearing it all the time, you need to like it. You have to be comfortable, and it has to fit with your lifestyle."

There have also been major changes in technology and in techniques for diagnosis and treatment of various matters to do with eyes health. Many of these issues are noticed initially in an optician's practice, and the rate of advances means that continuing professional development is necessary.

"CPD was always a voluntary part of our profession, which I subscribed to because things are always changing ... and also because I mentored students from time to time and for that you have to keep fresh, be on top of things." Like other professional groups in healthcare, opticians CPD now comes under the statutory body CORU, and is mandatory and audited. "There are times you might growl about it, but it really is a good thing, it gives you a focus for learning."

Working in Kilcullen has itself been a big part of her life change. "Of course, I always knew where Kilcullen is, but working here is so utterly different. It's very vibrant. It's very personal. And because it is so close by to home, you get to meet your patients sometimes when you are out."

And she has noticed an interesting thing about Kilcullen people, which might locally be taken for granted. "They are very long-lived here," she says with a smile. "I get to meet people in their 90s, and the great thing about it is that so many of them come in on their own …"

There's something about Kilcullen, all right.

This article was first published in the Kildare Nationalist.

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