Introduction to the Undergraduate Orthoptics Course

By Faith Kerekes, Year 3 - Bachelor of Medical Science (BMedSci) (Honours) Orthoptic Degree

Orthoptic teaching is both theoretical and practical. To prepare me for the clinical world, I got to go on placements in hospitals across the UK! During my years in Sheffield, I have been to 9 different hospitals. It is very exciting to explore so many cities, most of which I have not been to before! Amongst others, I have been to Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and Milton Keynes. 

My favourite place has been London, where I lived in the east end for a month with two coursemates.  I love the diversity of London and how quickly it can become your home! Having explored so much of it over a month has now made me feel somewhat of an honorary Londoner! Having loved London so much, I chose to go back for my last ever placement and was very happy to work there again. My favourite part of the course is how much it allows different places to inspire you, which is so unique in an undergraduate degree.

Often the member of staff giving a lecture on the topic in the morning will also lead the practical session in the afternoon. Usually practical sessions are held in smaller groups, giving plenty of time for questions. The practical rooms can also be booked when they are not in use, so students can practice in your free time. This is very useful before placements and preparing for exams!

Staff are very friendly in Orthoptics - staff and students are good friends! They seem to all know each and every student by name, which is might be rare on the bigger courses. We are all assigned a personal tutor as well, who is our first port of call if we need any help. The great thing about the small size of our course is that we got to know every person in our year well so you end up with a group of absolutely lovely friends!

Where does it get you?

You get to become an Orthoptist, or you can do further study.

Who are Orthoptists?

As eye care professionals, we work in the Ophthalmology department of hospitals with ophthalmologists, optometrists and nurses. We specialise in strabismus (misalignment of the eyes) in both children and adults. In children, we make sure visual development is normal. We may refer them for a glasses check, or prescribe patching for example. In the adult clinics we mainly help people with double vision.

What’s the difference between Orthoptics and Optometry?

Optometrists (also called Opticians) are mainly concerned with the need for glasses and the health of the back of the eye. Orthoptists specialise in eye movement disorders, visual development and double vision.

Why Orthoptics at Sheffield?

On top of being taught the core aspects of Orthoptics, you also learn about Optics and Ophthalmology. The practical aspect of the Optics module teaches you things like checking glasses prescriptions and techniques to check the health of the back of the eye. The Ophthalmology module further builds on this, teaching techniques for checking the health of the eye and noting abnormalities. Such aspects of the course prepare us for the extended roles Orthoptists take on in hospitals today, such as in glaucoma clinics. The research project in final year will also gives us the skills for any research we may want to do in the future, be it further study to do a Master’s, PhD or clinical research!

All in all, Orthoptics is awesome, so I would say, give it a go :)