One of the many reasons Katie Platts loves her job at an optician is making people smile.
Among her recent customers was a one-year-old girl who was wearing glasses for the first time. Katie said that she cried when she had the glasses put on but when she saw her mum clearly for the first time, she was smiling.
“I’ve got a career, rather than a job.”
These are the special moments that Katie is hoping to continue to create for her customers at Specsavers in Skipton. She said: “I’ve got a career, rather than a job.”
This year, as a result of sheer perseverance and despite suffering two head injuries that set her studies back, she graduates from Bradford College with a Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing.
Katie, who is 32 and lives in Embsay, has been working in the optical field since 2010, when her father came back from an optician’s appointment in Specsavers in Skipton and suggested she apply for a vacancy there.
A perfect job for a people person
She worked at the store for three years before deciding to study ophthalmic dispensing at Bradford College. She said: “I’m a people person, I like working with the public. I wanted to have some stability in my job and knew I could widen my opportunities if I studied. I wanted to study close to home, but work at the same time. I had a couple of friends who had applied for the same course and wanted to know I had friends I could talk to about the course outside of lessons.”
Katie began studying for the foundation degree in 2013.
Accredited by the University of Bolton, the Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing is aimed at those who wish to work towards becoming a fully qualified and registered Dispensing Optician. A full-time course is available as well as a part-time course for those currently working at an optical practice who want to study and work at the same time.
Topics include how the eye works, how lenses work, and how to problem solve as well as making frames from scratch.
A relaxed and friendly way to study
Katie said: “I’m a hands-on person and really enjoyed the course.
“I really enjoyed how the tutors taught their lessons. Being at school, it’s very much ‘we are the teachers, you are the student’, but as on the course we are all professionals, it was a lot more relaxed. Although there was structure, it wasn’t as strict.”
Triumph despite setbacks
Katie’s achievement is all the more satisfying given the setbacks she experienced a year after beginning her degree.
In January 2014, she slipped on ice and banged her head on a concrete step. The following day she went to work but found her vision had been impacted by the fall. As a result, she was sent to hospital.
Unfortunately, while attending a friend’s wedding in June that year, she suffered another injury. She had been sitting on a roundabout having photos taken when the roundabout was pushed, causing her to bang her head on a metal bar. Again, she was rushed to hospital.
“I’ve got so far, I can’t give up”
She had been due to take her exams but felt she would not be able to give her best as a result of her injuries. She said: “I thought, I can’t do exams like this. I thought I would be penalised for not sitting the exams but I wasn’t.
“My lecturer, Dean Dunning, said: “Let’s resit the year.” I thought, I’ve got so far, I can’t just give up.
“He suggested I come back later and finish it, and I have done. I’m glad I’ve done it.”
A move back home
She also moved back from the busy city of Leeds to her home village with her family, which helped make her studies easier.
Katie continued to feel the effects of her injuries but never gave up. She said: “Sometimes, if I got really tired or stressed, I would get a headache and kaleidoscope vision in my right eye.
“My greatest achievement was to get through it all and get to the end. In 2014, I thought I couldn’t do this and I was prepared to give up. But tutors said; ‘Keep going, talk to us and carry on.’ It means more to me that I’ve stuck with it and completed it. I just needed to take my own time to do it.”
“Do something that will help you into the career you want”
And Katie’s family is very proud of her achievements. She said: “I’m the only person in my family that’s been to university and graduated. It’s a big thing for them.”
She has strongly encouraged others considering going into higher education to follow their dreams. She said: “Make sure you choose the right degree. Do something that will help you into the career you want. You will form new friendships you wouldn’t necessarily make otherwise. I wish I had done it earlier.”
Eventually Katie hopes to specialise in paediatrics or take a low vision course. “I find working in both those areas rewarding.”
If you would like to follow in Katie’s footsteps and study ophthalmology, you can find out about all the courses we offer on our website.
Degrees at Bradford College
We offer courses from Level 4 through to Postgraduate studies, including Masters. We also provide continued professional development (CPD) opportunities for professionals and teachers.
If you would like to study for a degree with us, you can find out more at www.bradfordcollege.ac.uk