What is an average day like?
An average day may involve any of the
- specialty, general or acute clinics where patients are seen
approximately every fifteen minutes
- treatment clinics using laser, intra-ocular or peri-ocular
- surgery – performing cataract surgery or other operations in a
specialist eye theatre.
Most consultant ophthalmologists have two or
three operating sessions per week, and three or four clinic
sessions (which may include treatment clinics). Acute clinics (eye
A&E) tend to be managed by staff doctors and trainees with
senior advice available as required.
What are the hours like?
Ophthalmology is mainly a nine-to-five
specialty. Out-of-hours work is lighter than many disciplines and
shift work is unlikely. The specialist nature of eye emergencies
means that ophthalmologists are required to be on call but
‘hospital at night’ generic teams deal with routine ward work out
of hours. Small teams are on call overnight and at weekends.
Where is the work based?
Work is based in operating theatres,
outpatient clinics and increasingly in community clinics. There is
a small amount of ward work.
What people work in the same team?
Ophthalmologists are likely to work
- optometrists (opticians)
- specialist nurses
- social workers
Types of patients
Patients come from the whole age range,
premature babies to the most senior members of the population.
Patients are generally well and their conditions not
life-threatening. Eye symptoms are very common and cause
considerable anxiety so much advice and treatment is required.
Ophthalmologists are always in demand.
Number of patients seen in a day
Typically you might see about 12 to 15 at a
half day outpatients clinic and between four and eight in a
half day operating list. There are always urgent and extra patients
and eye casualty clinics can be very busy. The work is challenging
but restoring sight is very rewarding, with many grateful
What is most enjoyable?
The mixture of medical and surgical
treatments, variety of work and involvement in many other
disciplines is very rewarding. The patient satisfaction rate is
high, as is scientific interest, and ophthalmologists meet many
What is most challenging?
Caring for people who are losing or have lost
their sight is challenging. With the rapid advances in technology,
there are new instruments and gadgets being introduced for
diagnosis and treatment and ophthalmologists have to develop new
practical skills throughout their career.
Opportunities for flexible training
There are opportunities for flexible
Opportunities for research and teaching
There are many opportunities for research and
teaching. Most ophthalmologists consider teaching medical students,
trainee specialists and other professionals such as orthoptists and
nurses as an integral and enjoyable part of their job. There are
research opportunities both laboratory-based and clinical in many
places with exciting advances for example in genetic therapies and
artificial vision. Many ophthalmologists continue to undertake
research throughout their careers.
Quote from an ophthalmologist
"I became an ophthalmologist because it
allowed me to blend medicine and surgery in a highly technical
environment and in a discipline which is evolving. I wanted the
challenge of learning new skills and knowledge, and the
satisfaction of highly effective treatments. Lower levels of night
work, good career prospects and no requirement to initially train
in general surgery were also factors in choosing this