Dispensing drama!

Seven years, five jobs, four colleges and finally, Jasmine Brodie is a DO.

When Jasmine Brodie started working as a shop assistant at Budget Eyewear in Katikati, she never imagined a career in optics lay ahead or visualised the drama to get here.

“School wasn’t really for me and I left quite young,” says Brodie. “I started work as a receptionist at a local dental practice before moving to the optometrists in 2011, aged 17. As soon as I started working there, I knew I loved it. The combination of working with people, style and eye care was so interesting.”

After her probationary period, Brodie’s manager suggested she train as a dispensing optician (DO), sponsored by the company. A delighted Brodie filled out the paperwork to register at RMIT University in Melbourne, but never heard back. “I’d mention it regularly to my manager, who kept chasing, but nothing happened.”

A year passed with Brodie remaining in an enrolment black hole. Then her manager returned from a meeting and tearfully told her the branch was closing. But Brodie was offered a job at a Hamilton OPSM store, with support to become a DO.

“I grew up at Waihi beach; all my family live locally. I had my own flat and a boyfriend who was doing a welding apprenticeship and couldn’t move. It was a big decision, but I really wanted my DO qualification, so I accepted the job in Hamilton.”

So, she moved to an unfamiliar city, alone, and had to share a house with strangers for the first time. But at least she was enrolled on Luxottica’s DO course. “I was terrified, to be honest and it took quite a few weeks for me to feel settled. My work and study got me through.”

But a year into the course, Luxottica announced there would be no DO qualification at the end of it, but students could finish the course for professional development alone. Everyone left, except Brodie! But Luxottica couldn’t run the course for one student, so the company offered to put her on the Open Training and Education Network (OTEN) course run by Sydney-based TAFE NSW. So, she started again, but then staff resourcing issues caused problems at work and Brodie couldn’t be spared for day release. “It meant that I couldn’t finish my next block, which would have resulted in me failing, so I just withdrew.”

Disheartened, Brodie left optics and returned to dentistry, qualifying as a dental assistant. But she didn’t feel satisfied with her work, she says. So, less than 18 months later, when she was contacted by Specsavers Te Rapa, which had been given her name as a potential trainee DO, she rocked up to the interview and told the directors what she wanted - support to qualify as a DO.

Brodie began working at Specsavers Te Rapa in March 2016 and good as their word, the directors sponsored her to qualify as a DO through the new, New Zealand-based Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD) course. They paid her fees, associated travel and accommodation, and gave her leave to study.

“They made it so easy for me,” says Brodie. “There were other people on the course who were paying for it all themselves and didn’t have as much support at work. It was very stressful for them and some even dropped out.”

Brodie also has a unique take on the course given she’s tried a few. “The OTEN course was quite confusing, but ACOD’s was really straightforward. The structure was easy to follow, and I got credits for my previous study, so I didn’t have to repeat things. ACOD were always on hand to answer my questions, even the annoying emails I sent them at 11pm.”

Brodie finished the course in 18 months and is now getting her professional hours under her belt. She will graduate in October at the ADONZ National conference in Auckland and expects to be registered as a DO in the New Year.

“I didn’t want to have been in the optical industry this long and have done all this study to not be able to call myself a DO,” she says. “The qualification opens doors. I could locum now, move practices if I wanted to, which I don’t because the team here are great. But the thing that is really exciting is that in the future I could own my own practice in partnership with an optometrist.”

Right now, though, she’s happy being qualified and being a DO, she says.

“I love my work; the look on people’s faces when you get their glasses right, it’s just so satisfying. I love the fact that I can support other staff, identify assistants that could be good DOs and encourage them through the course. I want to champion others.

“It’s also great for the industry to have qualified DOs out on the shop floor. The optometrist knows, when they’ve finished with a patient that the care doesn’t end, but progresses into the hands of a qualified professional who can continue that great service.”

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