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My experience at VCHP Ricky Patel

My experience at VCHP Ricky Patel

Ricky Patel, Optometrist and Clinical Tutor at University of Plymouth writes about his experience at VCHP


Eye opening and rewarding are two phrases that come to mind about the experience of working at Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP).

To see how vulnerable and homeless people manage everyday tasks that we take for granted makes you realise how lucky we really are. Being able to make a difference to someone less fortunate or in difficult circumstances by providing an eye examination is rewarding as it can have such a big impact. With Covid-19, many people have had fewer interactions with others. Being able to listen to service users, show empathy and provide them with the knowledge that their eyes are healthy makes me remember why I decided to become an Optometrist. I wanted to make a difference and I feel I am doing that at VCHP.

A patient prominent in my memory was someone who had cataracts for a long time, likely the most dense I have seen. To be able to explain cataracts to the patient and start the process off with a referral to the hospital eye service was very rewarding.

Another instance was a patient who had sadly been attacked and, as a result, left without any glasses. He was myopic and could only see approximately 25cm. We were able to arrange new glasses free of charge and he was extremely grateful. It was really satisfying to know what a difference I was able to make to his quality of life.

The Exeter clinic runs sporadically due to a lack of volunteers. We currently have two optometrists and as such we run clinics roughly once a month. There is scope to improve this to once every two weeks with more volunteer Optometrists. There is a clinic manager, Zoe, who is always there for the clinics as well as volunteer clinic assistants, Paul and Sue.  It’s normally a 4 hour shift and I see between 2-5 patients. I have been doing this for six months and I have really enjoyed every minute. It’s really wonderful to think you have made a difference to that person’s life, whether it’s providing a pair of glasses, referring the patient for additional tests or just being there to have a normal conversation with them and giving them peace of mind.

A really worthwhile cause if you have any spare time, it keeps you grounded as a person and makes you realise that there is more to life than testing in a box! Open yourselves to new experiences.

Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP) is looking for volunteer optometrists at several regional clinics. If you would like to know more please contact Helen Harms (helen.harms@vchp.org.uk) or visit the VCHP website where you can see all of our available volunteer positions. We look forward to meeting you. Thank you.

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