Rachel Gardiner - Optometrist


Rachel Gardiner


I was born/grew up in: St. John's, NL, Canada

I now live in: St. John's, NL, Canada

I completed my training/education at: Bachelor of Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Doctor of Optometry, University of Waterloo

Describe what you do at work.

I provide routine eye exams - prescribing glasses and treating diseases of the eye within my abilities and training. If a patient requires further expertise or surgery I refer them on to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist). A routine eye exam usually involves checking the person’s vision and looking for any issues. If issues are noted, I will try to find the cause and potential solutions. This involves knowledge of the biology of the eye and visual system. It also includes the use of evidence-based medicine to determine the best course of treatment. The most important part of this is making sure the patient understands the diagnosis and the plan of action so that any of their questions are answered.

I also have to make sure I keep up to date with practice standards as well as with newly developed drugs and techniques. This helps me make sure I’m providing the best care to my patients. Keeping up to date involves research and continued education. If you’ve ever visited an optometrist you will know that I use specialized equipment to figure out the prescription for glasses. I also use specialized equipment to examine the health of the eye ball (i.e., a slit lamp similar to a microscope). Depending on the issue a patient might have, there are other advanced technologies that I might use to learn more about the health and structures of that person’s eyeball. These technologies help diagnose and monitor eye conditions. This helps me make better decisions for care.

My job is as a solo-practitioner meaning I work with my own patients. However, there is a team of staff working with me to do the necessary work-up prior to their appointment. Once I see the patient they may require follow-up with a specialist. Or they may have an issue that is related to their general health. In these cases I may need to communicate with other health professions. I often talk with my colleagues about challenging cases. Sometimes it just require a fresh perspective to get to the diagnosis and make a treatment plan.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

My career as an optometrist is important in assisting people to see as clear as possible when they require glasses. It is also important in helping my patients maintain good eye health by routinely screening for eye disease and treating any issues that come up. The help I am able to provide makes my job more than fulfilling. I feel that optometrists are an important part of the whole health care team acting as advocates for our patients.

What motivates you in your career?

In my career I am motivated by the ability to help the patients I see every day. This can range from the simple act of prescribing glasses that help a child see better at school to giving an older adult a better quality of life. It can also involve more complex issues such as the discovery of a systemic disease through evaluation of eye related conditions. In short, my days are never dull! I find the cases that involve problem solving and the ones that don’t have a simple answer the most interesting. The challenge is always worth it when the patient’s complaints are addressed and they feel we are working together towards a solution. The thing I love most about my job is the personal interactions. I enjoy getting to know my patients on a personal level while also being able to help them with their eye health using my science background - it’s the perfect mix for me. Personally, the most rewarding part of my job is the smile on someone’s face when they can see clearly again!

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

During high school and undergrad I was very unsure of where I wanted to end up career wise. When I finished high school I decided to do a Bachelor of Science. I really didn’t know exactly what I would do after but figured I would most likely go on from it to do some further specialization. I thought I would be most fit to the health care industry but didn’t know what exactly that would look like. It was only when I began taking some entrance tests and exploring the options in my last year of my science degree that Optometry really stood out to me. I liked the idea of interaction with patients, the potential for a flexible schedule, and the intrigue of the visual system. After I completed my undergrad degree, I went on to do my doctor of Optometry at the only school for English speaking students in Canada - University of Waterloo. During my last year, there was a series of internships in different modes of practices. The mentors I had in those situations helped give me the insights about career choices after I graduated.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work I love to spend time with family and friends socializing. I like to keep active through running and yoga. I relax with a good book and for fun I love board games and trivia nights. Over the past few years I have been involved with several volunteer eye care missions in under-serviced areas of the world.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

Job shadowing would be a huge benefit before deciding to pursue this career - both to confirm your interest and to fulfill requirements for admission to Optometry Schools. Looking into the course requirements for all schools to plan your degree accordingly would also be wise.

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