Specsavers; investing in people and your vision

Annette Flanagan and Maeve O'Sullivan with their team at Specsavers Galway Shopping Centre. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Annette Flanagan and Maeve O'Sullivan with their team at Specsavers Galway Shopping Centre. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

It is important to take care of our eyes. Poor vision makes it harder to complete simple daily tasks such as reading, driving, and cooking. So when it comes to looking after our eyes' health, we want the best possible care. With that goal in mind Specsavers Galway - Headford Road introduced the revolutionary optical coherence tomography (OCT ) scan to its store in June this year.

The scan is considered by many eyecare professionals as one of the most important innovations in the area. Optician at Specsavers Galway - Headford Road, Maeve O'Sullivan, BSc (Hons ) FAOI, says the machine has changed the fundamental nature and accuracy of eye care diagnosis. She says; "With the old scan [Fundus] we could only measure the top structure of the eye. However, with the OCT scan we can look at the layers beneath so the images we receive are more in depth and detailed. It shows us the changes to the eye and if there has been any degeneration. It is essentially an ultrasound of the eye.

"This is a huge leap forward for eyecare. It is a game changer. The OCT scan adds only an extra two minutes to your standard eye test. There is no preparation needed, no dilation of pupils, and it is a totally non-invasive test. The results are immediate. The scan can also unveil other health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes which can affect the eyes so it is a huge improvement on the service we can offer to our patients."

With a patient uptake of 47 per cent since the OCT scan was launched in June, Maeve suggests that all patients over the age of 25 should undergo the scan. "We recommend everyone over the age of 25 [takes the OCT scan] because our eyes, like any other part of the body, degenerate as we get older, so having one done today enables us to compare the results in two years time to see if there has been any worsening in the eye."

'Grow your own'

However the state of the art piece of equipment can only be as effective as the people who operate it. For director of the Headford Road store, Annette Flanagan, investing in staff is just as important as investing in top of the range equipment. Annette says; "With Specsavers we focus on career development for everyone that we employ. Our motto is 'Grow your own'. For anyone who joins, you can start off on the floor and work your way up through the management side or the clinical side. We are happy to facilitate anyone who wants development.

Miriam Murphy of Specsavers Galway Shopping Centre. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

"We really strive to promote our own staff. At the interview stage we say to people this is what you can do and this is where you go. At present, we have two members of staff here training to become a DO [dispensing optician] and we have another member who will be going on to do audiologist course and we have two full time optometrists."

Annette is a prime example of Specsavers' policy 'Grow your own' as worked her way up through the company to be director of the Headford Road outlet which is readily accessible and provides free parking. She reveals; "I started in Specsavers in Eyre Square 17 years ago as a part-timer, working 9am to 2pm, Monday to Friday. I worked my way up through the store. I became a supervisor and eventually became a manager, and when Noel Meehan who is the director of Specsavers in Eyre Square and a co-director here on the Headford Road, made the decision to open this store, I went to do the interview and the training to become a director.

"I was looking for a part time job at first and through encouragement and seeing my abilities I moved on up the ladder. When someone asked when you are a child what do you want to be when you grow up, I would never have thought I'd own my own business so it is a great feeling. It is something I thought I would never to do but Specsavers believe in investing people and Noel invested in me. Noel's ethos is to develop and promote staff from within and it is something we endeavour to replicate here.

"There is superb career development at Specsavers and they have lots of facilities for that if that is something you want. Miriam Murphy, our new co-director is the prime example of 'Grow your own'. She did her training with us and started here as newly qualified optician and worked her way up through the ranks. She is replacing Cathy O'Boyle who opened the store with us and the last five years working with her were a pleasure and we wish the best to her in the future."

New co-director, Miriam Murphy agrees with Annette's thoughts of Specsavers' career pathway, having begun 10 years ago. "I started off as a weekend job working on the floor," says Miriam. "I qualified as an optometrist in 2014 and that's when the practice was opened here.

"I became a director two weeks ago and it is all very new but very exciting. I'm really looking forward to getting going. We have a nice little practice and we have a great team here."

Aoife's Clown doctors

One aspect of the business that Annette is very proud of is its work with charity, in particular Aoife's Clown Doctors. She says; "Aoife's Clown Doctors are a charity who are professional actors, trained to work in the hospital setting. They do the most amazing work, their goal is to bring happiness to sick children and put smiles on their faces.

"They are mainly based in Crumlin Hospital in Dublin but they set up a section here in Galway and Specsavers decided to get involved in raising money for the charity. What we do in store is we offer free adjustments and free repairs in lieu of donating for the charity so we have raised €2,200 in the year we have been working with them and we hope to raise more next year."

For more information drop into Specsavers at the Galway Shopping Centre or to book an appointment visit www.specsavers.ie A standard eye test is free at Specsavers with PRSI or medical card, with the enhanced OCT scan costing €15.

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