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June 2022

From Cairns to Fremantle and Singapore to Dublin, a career in orthoptics can take people places they never thought possible.

Under the theme: ‘Where can orthoptics take you?’ this Orthoptics Awareness Week 2022 (30 May – 3 June), Orthoptics Australia, in partnership with Insight, shares anecdotes from Australian-trained orthoptists to showcase just some workplace destinations within the profession.

Thomas Ho

Image of Thomas HoOrthoptist for the South Metropolitan Health Service at Fremantle and Fiona Stanley Hospital Group (FSFHG) – Western Australia. 

I love travelling and seeing Australia. When I was doing my orthoptics training at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), I went to Townsville and Albury–Wodonga for placements where I saw children with strabismus and white cataracts in adults in just the first hour.

After I graduated and worked in Sydney for six months, I decided that I wanted to help low-resourced cities, and so I moved to Hobart to work as a sole orthoptist in a private clinic. Ophthalmologists truly relied on my orthoptic skills and assessment. If a child with a large esotropia needed surgery, the ophthalmologist will use my measurements and recommendation of which muscle to operate on.

I am now working at Fremantle hospital in WA where our catchment area expands from Perth to Margaret River and Kalgoorlie. I have the opportunity to see a lot of blow-out fractures, complex ocular motility cases and teach doctors on how to perform cover tests.

Natalie Ainscough

Image of Natalia AinscoughCo-Owner, Adelaide Orthoptics and Orthoptic Clinical Coordinator, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide – South Australia.

During the past 15 years I’ve had the privilege of working as an orthoptist in the UK and Australia, with opportunities I never imagined when starting university.

Five years into my full-time NHS career I had itchy feet, like many 25-year olds, and decided working overseas for two years would fulfil my wanderlust.

Fast forward nine years, and I’m still here in South Australia, and orthoptics has helped me become the co-owner of Adelaide Orthoptics, the coordinator and lead orthoptist of an ophthalmology team at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and an Australian citizen.

Nowadays I work in public and private healthcare, and in areas I never considered. Some lesser-known roles include; educating families of babies and children requiring contact lenses, supporting patients who need prosthetic eyes and assisting with NDIS plans.

The best part is I still get to spend time in clinic working with patients of all ages and abilities, and as part of a wonderful team. Looking back, 17-year-old Natalie did a good job of choosing her career.

Kylie Gran

Kylie GranOrthoptist/clinic coordinator – Latrobe University Orthoptic Eye Clinic – Melbourne, Victoria. Previously, an orthoptist in Norway.

With a passion for working with children, an interest in strabismus and sense of adventure, the opportunity to work as an orthoptist in Norway was too good to pass up.

Working as a traditional orthoptist, assessing children with eye movement and vision disorders, or adults with strabismus, post-concussion symptoms, neurological conditions and endocrine disease, there was much to learn. Alongside immersion in a new language and culture.

Whether working in a small seaside hospital, or in the large University Hospital in Oslo, an orthoptist is an important and valued member of the ophthalmic team in Norway. Orthoptists work autonomously within hospitals or private practice, with responsibility for the treatment and follow up of their own patients. They are also integral in the pre-operative assessment of patients with strabismus, often providing ophthalmologists with recommendations for the type and amount of strabismus surgery required.

The experience has made me a better orthoptist. I thoroughly enjoy passing on the experience gained to orthoptic students attending the orthoptist-led internal clinic at Latrobe University.

Allyn Ethel Escudero

Allyn EthelOrthoptist at iPrime Vision & Eyecare Specialists – Davao City, Philippines.

With 112 million Filipinos, orthoptic services are scant in the Philippines with only four orthoptists working with ophthalmologists or optometrists in private practice or hospital settings.

This prompted me to move back to the Philippines after completing my degree at UTS in late 2020.

I am currently affiliated with iPrime Vision & Eyecare Specialists. I primarily see paediatric patients with strabismus, and amblyopia, and am actively involved in myopia management. I also see low vision and neuro-ophthalmology patients whom I manage in collaboration with optometrists, ophthalmologists or neurologists, prompting me to approach cases holistically and keeping myself abreast of the latest in eye health by attending webinars by Orthoptics Australia and other organisations.

My everyday patient encounters are unique and a continuous learning experience that tasks me with exploring all possibilities to provide them with the best quality of life, which truly defines my purpose as an orthoptist. After a year in the practice, I’m blessed to have the sense of fulfilment to provide orthoptic care to the Filipinos, especially the people who need it most.

Lina Li

Image of Lina LiOrthoptist at Alice Springs Hospital – Northern Territory.

I travelled to Alice Springs just after Sydney’s June 2021 lockdown. Feeling fresh and excited after the quarantine period, I was greeted with the wonderful Alice Springs Hospital Eye Team and since then every day has been challenging, exciting and fulfilling.

Working in a rural hospital as a solo orthoptist has strengthened my clinical reasoning and improved my confidence and communication. I’ve had the privilege to work with subspecialty ophthalmologists such as paediatrics, anterior segment/cornea, uveitis, glaucoma and medical retina who come to the hospital.

I’ve encountered various severe eye conditions; for example, end-stage diabetic retinopathy and traumatic eye injury. Most Mondays, I go on outreach visits with the eye team to provide eyecare for patients more than 500km away. I also had the opportunity to start orthoptic clinics to monitor amblyopia management or help reduce the wait time. This is in addition to the unique experience of trying to learn the languages of the communities of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and their way of life.

Denise Bartolo

Image of Denise BartoloOrthoptist at Women’s and Children’s Hospital Adelaide – South Australia.

After graduating from Latrobe University, I was eager to start my orthoptic career in Adelaide following a wonderful experience there as a student.

I was offered a graduate position in an Adelaide ophthalmology practice, covering all sub-specialities. There, I gained essential orthoptic skills and discovered my passion for paediatric ophthalmology, strabismus and neuro-ophthalmology.

When a position became available to sub-specialise in these areas I jumped at the opportunity.

Currently, at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, I have the privilege of meeting and connecting with children of all ages and abilities. I have complete autonomy, running various orthoptic-led clinics. I’m encouraged to upskill in areas that interest me; most recently I’ve fulfilled my hopes of performing B-scans and ultrasound biomicroscopy.

I have been living in Adelaide for three years now and not only do I love what I do and the diverse opportunities that Adelaide provides as an orthoptist, but I love the state, lifestyle and people that have made Adelaide home.

Damon Goddard

Image of Damon GoddardOrthoptist at Christchurch Hospital – New Zealand.

Orthoptics has taken me further than I could have predicted. In 2019 I was fortunate to participate in an eye screening mission to the Philippines. Then, at the beginning of 2021, I accepted a position at Christchurch Hospital.

Moving to a new country during the pandemic was challenging, but has accelerated my career and is the best decision I’ve made. The work and life experience in the two years since graduating has been invaluable. My orthoptist position at the hospital is all I could ask for; primarily working in paediatrics, specialising in strabismus and amblyopia management. It’s immensely engaging.

Additionally, I have a significant role in adult retinal, corneal, neurological, thyroid and glaucoma clinics. Each week is different, and this variety keeps things fresh and exciting. Whether I’m running my own clinic, performing tasks like biometry, or pre-testing patients, I love every second.

Living just an hour from the slopes is amazing during the ski season too. There’s no limit to where you can go as an orthoptist.

Jack O’Donnell
Image of Jack O'DonnellOrthoptist in Cairns – Far North Queensland.

I grew up in the regional Victorian town of Mildura (approx 40,000 population) and had travelled little. So, after finishing studying at Latrobe, I used orthoptics as a means to travel. I looked interstate and even internationally and landed in Cairns.

I joined one of Cairns’ three private ophthalmology clinics (there are no hospital clinics). Working in a rural Queensland setting was rewarding; patients range from typical cataract and pterygium cases to seeing retinal detachments weekly. Every two weeks we travelled to our satellite clinic (an hour and a half away) to see more remote patients, which was my favourite day. At the clinic I did everything from patient work up and assisting in intravitreal injections, to booking patients for surgeries and managing surgical lists.

While I liked the work, I loved Cairns. My free time spent in the beautiful Far North rainforests and beaches, visiting the Daintree Forest, the Tablelands, Port Douglas and Turtle Cove. The Cairns community and environment is wonderful, and orthoptics led me there.

Gareth Lingham

Gareth LinghamArnold F Graves Postdoctoral Research Scholar at Centre for Eye Research Ireland, Technological University Dublin – Ireland.

Orthoptics first took me to the other side of Australia and then the other side of the world. I trained as an orthoptist in Melbourne, but moved to Perth upon graduating for employment.

There, opportunities arose to complete a PhD and, subsequently, accept a job in Dublin, Ireland.

Since mid-2021, I’ve been based at the Centre for Eye ResearchIreland (CERI) at Technological University Dublin. I’m part of a team aiming to prevent vision loss and blindness by developing a better understanding of eye diseases and their managements through use of new technologies, big data and conducting clinical trials. Working at CERI has broadened my understanding of the various challenges faced in the eye and vision sector globally but with advancements in technology, our ability to understand and address these challenges is improving. Having the opportunity to contribute to research that can prevent vision loss is humbling.

Without orthoptics, I wouldn’t be where I am today and am enormously grateful for the opportunities it has presented.

MaryAnne Gregory

Image of MaryAnne GregorySenior Orthoptist at The Canberra Hospital – ACT.

From Tasmania, to Sydney to Canberra. What a difference a generation or two makes. I haven’t had a formal interview for any of my orthoptic positions and when I worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Camperdown, Sydney, my interview was on my first day.

With a Diploma in Orthoptics from the Cumberland College of Health Sciences in 1975, I have worked in private and public systems, with time away to have a family.

Hobart and Launceston honed my skills in all orthoptic areas. The Children’s Hospital was my dream job – working with children.

In Canberra I was asked to assist in setting up the public Eye Clinic at The Canberra Hospital. This included procuring equipment to employing orthoptists and nurses, being part of the allied health network, and showing eye and other registrars how beneficial orthoptists are to the eye health team. And from supervising orthoptic students, contributing to the Orthoptics Australia and now working part time with the most vulnerable in our community, I’ve had a great career.

Zoe Deuxberry

Image of Zoe DeuxberryOrthoptist at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) – Singapore.

After finishing my orthoptics degree at UTS at the end of 2020 I wanted to ensure my first job was in a clinic where I could continue to learn and grow my orthoptics skills, especially in strabismus. I searched Australia-wide and then expanded my search internationally.

I felt fortunate to be given the opportunity to work at SNEC and KKH (Children’s clinic), especially in the middle of COVID. My roles at both centres focus mostly on paediatric and strabismus, as well as working with neuro- ophthalmology and oculoplastics.

My confidence and skills in seeing strabismus patients has grown increasingly over the last year. I have had the chance to see patients with varying types of eye muscle disorders and seeing patients from as young as four months old at the KKH Children’s clinic, to as old as 95 years at SNEC.

I know the experiences and skills that I’ve learned so far – and continue to learn – will follow me wherever my future as an orthoptist takes me.

Kate Qi

Image of Kate QiOrthoptist at Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) – Brisbane, Queensland.

I’m an orthoptist at STARS hospital in Brisbane, Queensland, a new non-acute facility, with the ophthalmology department designed to relieve pressure from Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital’s surgical waitlist.

My responsibilities involve working closely with ophthalmologists to screen and work up new patients on the cataract and pterygium waitlist for surgery and seeing review patients that have had surgery with us, hoping to discharge them back to the care of their local optometrist. Additionally, I’ve taken responsibility of the cataract audit to assist the ophthalmology department in evaluating operative visual outcomes and determining if they meet international guidelines.

By moving to Brisbane from Melbourne early in 2021, I’ve had the unique opportunity to work alongside my senior orthoptist and collaboratively develop a new ophthalmology department at STARS. We had a successful 2021, servicing over ~1,500 cataract surgeries – and I’m excited to grow alongside the ophthalmology department and hope to see more orthoptists join us here in Brisbane.

This article has been republished courtesy of Insight News.