Returning to Perth: UTS Orthoptics placement inspires career
Meet UTS Orthoptics alumna Hong Vu! Hong graduated from UTS in 2016 and is now working full-time in Perth, Western Australia. This is Hong’s story.
Tell us a bit about yourself - How did you get into Orthoptics?
I was born and raised in Sydney, and for my undergrad degree, I studied a Bachelor of Science with a major in Vision Science at UNSW. I was a part of the first cohort of Master of Orthoptics students to graduate from UTS in 2016. After graduating, I decided to move interstate to work, purely because I wanted a change of lifestyle and I was excited to see what Perth had to offer.
How did you find out about the job offer in Perth?
In second year, when we had our rural/interstate clinical placements, I chose to go to Perth. At the time, I didn’t really know why I chose Perth out of all the other states and options, but all I knew was that I really wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before. After doing my placement there for two weeks, I came back to Sydney and finished off my final exams. Then towards the end of the year, I was offered a position at my placement site, which was Lions Eye Institute (LEI).
The only advice I would give to students would be to seize any opportunity that may come your way and to keep an open mind because you never know where you might end up.
What does a typical day in your workplace look like?
My job position is quite unique - I am a Clinical Orthoptist as well as a Clinical Research Orthoptist. The funny thing is, I don’t have a daily work routine. Every day is different for me, which is what I love about my job! As LEI is a big private clinic, we have a number of different clinics running at the same time (such as, retina, cornea, oculoplastics, glaucoma and paediatrics). I am a “floater”, which basically means I can be thrown into any clinic. One day I could be in oculoplastics, another day in retina, another day in paediatrics, or working in clinical trials.
My days change every week. Clinic is basically straightforward, as you work alongside the ophthalmologist and help with diagnosing the patient. For example, if I’m working with a retinal doctor, I might perform a lot of imaging (OCT, FAF, Fundus photos, FA and ICGA imaging). Clinical Trials is definitely something totally different to clinic. As a clinical research orthoptist, I am involved in performing study-related assessments, such as refraction, BCVA and imaging, which adheres to study protocols. I am also coordinating my own external clinical trial on a study drug used for treating malaria.
Has moving to Perth and starting your career been daunting?
As a new graduate orthoptist, it is a little daunting trying to find out where you fit in the workplace, as you don’t know what kind of field interests you. Coming out of university, I didn’t know whether I liked working with kids or in a retinal clinic, as opposed to working in a refractive surgery clinic. So, for me to be given the opportunity to work in such a diverse and large ophthalmology clinic, has helped me keep all my skills relevant. I have enjoyed being thrown into all sorts of clinics because it makes you learn so much more! The choice to move to Perth for this job opportunity has definitely been a rewarding one.
Did you always know that you wanted to move interstate with Orthoptics, or was this a decision made towards the end of your Masters degree?
When I started my Orthoptics degree, I had no idea where I wanted to work. I guess the ideal job opportunity was to work in a hospital, where you would be exposed to all sorts of eye conditions. But, over the course of my degree, I was really open to anything that was on offer. Once I experienced what Lions Eye Institute had on offer, it made my decision to move interstate an easy one. It was a huge opportunity offered to me, and I thought it would be so silly to turn it down. A really big thing to note is that WA (and I’m sure this is true for many other states as well), is short on orthoptists. We are valued and greatly appreciated for the work we do here. There are a lot of optometrists or ophthalmic assistants taking on orthoptist roles here in Perth, as there aren’t enough of us in this part of the world.
Relocating to the other side of Australia is quite a big change! What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced making the move?
Moving to Perth has definitely been a challenging experience for me. The most difficult challenge was moving out of home and becoming independent. You learn to take care of yourself and do everything for yourself. This experience has taught me how to become an adult! I’ve definitely matured in my first year being away from home. I came to Perth with no family or friends who lived here, so it was pretty hard settling in during the first couple of months. It was a tad lonely. However, as I grew more comfortable, I made friends at work and they have pretty much become my family here in Perth. They make my time here enjoyable and the days go by quicker! I can’t believe it’s almost been a year! I guess time flies when you’re working your butt off, right?
Do you have any advice for both the 1st and 2nd year students that might also be interested in moving interstate or even overseas with Orthoptics?
The only advice I would give to students would be to seize any opportunity that may come your way and to keep an open mind because you never know where you might end up. Although it may be scary to comprehend the idea of moving away from what you are comfortable with, you’ll never know what else is out there until you try it. I told myself I would give it a go and if I didn’t like it or I couldn’t handle it on my own, then I could always move back. Now, it’s almost one year in and I have not regretted it one bit!
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