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    More threads coming for Optometry, Audiology, Speech Therapy, Radiography etc when I get the time, hehe

    Overview: Orthoptics is the study of ocular motility, in other words eye movement. Orthoptists use eye-charts, stereoscopic vision testing, perimetry tests, Hess charts, Field of BSV testing and prisms to diagnose and analyse problems with eye movements. They work in the hospital setting as well as regional clinics. They can refer patients for surgery and instigate courses of treatment but they cannot prescribe spectacles. During the course you must complete 1000 hours of clinical placement work to graduate - and you'll be placed in hospitals up and down the country so you'll get to see the country a bit

    Degree length: 3 years, with Honours.

    NHS Bursary: Yes - course fees are also paid for.

    Unis offering: Uni of Sheffield {BMS Orth. (Hons)}, Uni of Liverpool {BSc Orth. (Hons)}. The only difference between the two besides location is that at Sheffield you do a research thesis for honours, whereas at Liverpool you do a literature analysis - this might have changed since I had my interviews.

    Places offered: 33 per Uni, per year. 66 in total.

    Recommended A-Levels: Biology, Chemistry, Physics - Physics especially as there is a large Optics component to the course, but it isn't essential as they bring you up to A-Level standard in the first year. They also don't mind Psychology, Maths or humanities, provided you have at least Biology as once of your subjects.

    Career prospects: Pretty damn good - there's a high dropout rate for Orthoptics as a lot of the successful candidates use it as a side-step into medicine or they've been rejected from medicine and feel that Orthoptics isn't as good (you can make it good!) There's a terrible shortage of Orthoptists in hospitals, so you've a very good chance of employment.

    Some jobs an Orthoptist does:
    Rehabilitation of stroke patients (strokes can affect the nerves going to eye muscles).
    Thyroid eye disease monitoring (you will see these people year after year - their Field of BSV charts become several metres long )
    Remedying double vision (can be pretty distressing so they may be very thankful when it's corrected!)
    Glaucoma monitoring (with visual fields testing - the machines are so cool!)
    Strabismus/nystagmus/amblyopia diagnosis and analysis (this is your main area of study, and you get to recommend people for surgery here too)
    Visual field tests for driving (dunno why they ended up with this job, but what the hey )

    Work Experience: You're going to be working with children a hell of a lot as an orthoptist - so getting some work experience in a nursery or primary school would be very very useful for you (subtle hint in there - the unis love it). Trying to get information out of a baby who can't speak words, or a three year old with learning difficulties is a challenge, I can say, so having previous experience with them can be a big help.

    A visit to an Orthoptics department is ESSENTIAL. A day at least, go for a week if you can! Phone up your local hospital, or even better a teaching hospital if one is in the area, and ask them if you can spend some time in their orthoptics department. They'll most likely say yes, 'cause they're nice like that and they're pretty desperate for more orthoptists so they'll take on anyone who's interested in studying the course. Try and get the work experience before your interviews if at ALL possible - this is insanely useful as it gives you something to rave on about during the interview, and you pick up loads about the profession which makes you look very intelligent, hehe. The reason why it's good to go for a teaching hospital is because A) They might let you watch the operations and B) There might be actual Orthoptics students there on clinical placement - great way to find out about the unis and the course! and C) They'll remember you when you go back to apply for a job, hehe. Also ask the Orthoptists which unis they're from as they can help you decide. Most importantly - GET A REFERENCE! If you worked hard, learnt a lot and showed it, you'll get a good reference which is very handy for applying to the Unis. For anyone in the Cambs/Herts area, I recommend Addenbrookes - the staff are fab!

    What they look for in your personal statement: Okay, as there's only two unis offering the Orthoptics course, they're kind of used to dual-purpose personal statements orientated towards two different courses, so dooon't worry about that (I mean, geez, I got in there with a statement ranting almost exclusively on the subject of Zoology ) You will most definitely get an interview, and it's there that you prove yourself (more on that in a sec). They look for:
    • Work experience (so mention it, dammit!)
    • Desire to work with children as well as the elderly.
    • DIFFERENTIATION BETWEEN ORTHOPTICS AND OPTOMETRY - Do NOT blab on about glasses and contact lenses! This is so so important because Liverpool does in fact mention on its website that they look for this. If you're applying for Optometry as well as Orthoptics, keep the two subjects very much separate. It keeps them happy, so humour them
    • Enthusiasm - You've gotta be pretty motivated to be in this job - it doesn't pay as well as medicine and it's not as recognised. Tell them why you want to study Orthoptics and how you became interested. If you studied the eye in Biology, talk about that - if you're fascinated by how vision works and what goes wrong with it, talk about that, and if you just wanted to fill in an extra slot on your UCAS form, it's better that you *don't* talk about that...
    • Good communication skills - use good phrasing and grammar/spelling in your personal statement because it shows you have a high standard of English.

    The Interview:

    Liverpool - Liverpool are a bit weird, they have a general Open Day in the Orthoptics department rather than a formal interview - I'm not sure how they choose the candidates to offer to by this, but try and make yourself noticed by asking interested questions. Examples of that would be:

    "What research projects are going on at the moment?"
    "How does this machine work?"
    "Is there a registration fee upon graduation?" etc etc

    As well as this, you don't have to worry about bringing CRB stuff in for Liverpool - they give you the forms when you get there 'cause they don't want to waste paper on those who don't want to go (in their words!)

    Sheffield - You will get an interview if you're shortlisted - it's an inevitable fact, because they need to get all your identity stuff off you for a Criminal Records Bureau check (which is compulsory - they'll give you a list of everything you need to bring, and make sure you bring it all because the stuff has to be presented and checked in person and it saves you having to make a second trip up there.) You'll get taken on a tour of the facilities first (it'll be in the hospital next door to the Uni) - the goodness of the tour depends on the student you get to take you. I ended up with a "This is this room. We do this in here. That's pretty much it." type tour so it wasn't all that fabulous nor useful for the interview. Try and ask questions during the tour if it's a good one as you might get some information that's useful for later on. You'll also get a little lecture on Orthoptics and what goes on in your degree by the admissions tutor - listen carefully as you might come up with some questions to ask your interviewer and it'll give you some useful background knowledge on the workings of the eye and eye muscles. And ask her about nystagmus - that's her research speciality and it'll make you stick in her mind

    Then, into the interview - dum dum daaaah. Here's where you show your stuff! Firstly, you have to prove to them that you haven't put this course down as a filler for your UCAS while you apply to medicine or dentistry or Optometry (even if you have ) - talk about why you find the course interesting, draw in your A-Level subjects and how you think they will be useful while studying. They'll ask you about your personal statement - and might add that your personal statement seems geared towards another subject too. No point denying it, but you don't have any reason to feel ashamed - there are only two Unis offering and you've six choices, after all. So, don't try to diss the other course you've applied for - explain why you've applied for the other course but also try and link those reasons into the reasons why you've applied for Orthoptics. In other words, try and show them that you've applied for the other course because you believe your skills would be useful in that area too - so they see that you just want to employ your skills in the best way possible and that you'd be happy in either course. So, fairly neutral ground at the moment - bring in the big guns! Talk about your work experience - what you enjoyed, what you thought would be challenging. You probably saw a lot of diagnostic methods that you would carry out in a different way - talk about how you would engage the children while testing, what ideas you thought were good and things like that. Do a bit of background research on the modules and research areas of the Uni and talk about what things you're interested in. They'll ask you questions here and there, so answer them as best you can, but otherwise talk as much as you can about the course and why you like the uni. It basically shows that you can communicate and are enthusiastic. And that's pretty much all the advice I can give as every interview is different. Good luck!

    Any other questions ask them below and I'll add them in here when answered Hope this is useful!
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Updated: November 12, 2004

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