Ophthalmologists diagnose, manage and treat conditions affecting the eyes including illness, disease, infection, trauma and carcinoma. As an ophthalmologist you will treat a broad range of conditions including corneal disease, lens concerns, eye trauma or injury, eye infection or inflammation, retinal disease, glaucoma, eye tumours, squints and eye refraction errors. You are surgically trained and use both surgery and medical options as treatment.
As an ophthalmologist you will work closely with optometrists to care for your patients. You can work in either the public or the private sector.
FULL PANEL RECORDING
To be an ophthalmologist you must have:
- Excellent manual dexterity, good hand-eye coordination and good vision
- Ability to concentrate for intricate procedures
- Ability to communicate effectively and empathically with patients
- Strong physics and maths skills to assist in refractive treatments.
There is a good balance between the clinical aspects and the surgical aspects of the role. It also gives you a good work-life balance in terms of the hours you work. From a professional point of view, you get very good exposure to the various subspecialties that are available in ophthalmology.
What's good to know prior to joining the training program?
The ophthalmology training program is a five-year program delivered through the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).
The five-year program involves four years of registrar training and then a one-year fellowship. Exams include the Ophthalmic Sciences exams (within the first 18 months), the Ophthalmic Pathology exam (in your third year) and RANZCO Advanced Clinical exam (RACE) in your fourth year. Upon successful completion of the exams and your clinical training time you can apply for fellowship which can usually be completed interstate or overseas (COVID-19 dependent).
Prior to entering the training program, it’s important to experience rotations in your intern and resident years that give you exposure to skills that can be applied in some way shape or form to ophthalmology. Specific subspecialties such as neurology can be useful, but any surgical subspecialty will give you the surgical skills that you require.
Within WA you usually must work as a service registrar prior to getting on the program as a trainee registrar. There are oftentimes more opportunities over east e.g. NSW and Victoria as a lower PGY to get onto the training program because they take on more trainees overall. In WA there can be between one to four trainee positions each year.
It’s a great training program and you’re very well supported but there are several examinations which require a significant amount of studying. Being on call can also be challenging if you’ve worked all day and are then on call that night but this doesn’t happen often. Overall the work life balance is generally good except when you’re studying for your exams and this can take you away from your family and friends for extended periods of time.
To be successful in gaining entry to the training program you need to ensure you’re a good doctor. Don’t have a single-minded focus on ophthalmology as your profession but make the most of all the different rotations that you go through and opportunities you have because they’re important. The better doctor you are, the better physician you are, the better ophthalmologist you will be.
On the College website there are different attributes that they are looking for in ophthalmologists e.g. scholar, medical expert, educator, professional. Keep these in the back of your mind when you’re going through medical school and as a junior doctor to look at the different ways you can be involved in certain things to tick these boxes when you’re applying for the training program. Show you’re engaged and keen whenever you have opportunities to be in eye clinics and show you know something about the eye when you’re talking with senior clinicians. Also consider research, advocacy work and teaching that will look good on your CV.
In the first instance the college will look at your CV, your referee scores and dependent on how good these are they may offer you an interview. Once the interviews are conducted you find out if you get a state-based interview. The process has recently moved from a state-based application process to a national one.
The training program is fun and rewarding but it can be difficult to spend long hours away from your family when you’re studying. Expect it to be difficult but expect it to be rewarding – it’s a great career!
Overview of ophthalmology training program
Where can I undertake ophthalmology training?
What is challenging about the training program?
What intern rotations are useful for ophthalmology?
How many trainees are accepted onto the program?
What's good about the training program?
What are the entry requirements for the training program?
How can you bolster your resume to get onto the program?
Ophthalmologists can choose to work in the public sector, the private sector or both, which most working in the private sector. Although most ophthalmologists work in metropolitan areas, there are many opportunities regionally for ophthalmologists.
N.B. Career prospects are dependent on both the supply of specialists and the projected future demand for services provided by medical specialists (including general practitioners). The complex interplay of supply and demand is currently being modelled at both a state and national level and will be included when it's available.