This year’s National Eye Health Week is taking place from 23 to 29 September 2019. To mark the event, we take a look at the service provided by our very own Eye Health Information team.
Dr Louise Gow, who heads the team, shares her insights in this Q&A feature.
What does your team do?
We have three key roles. Firstly, we handle calls, emails and letters from public wanting to know about their eye condition, treatment, or low vision services. Quite often, the hospital and opticians don’t have the time to answer these questions, so we take the time to explain things fully in a way that’s easy to understand. We tell about other organisations and services that can help. We also handle the calls for Esme's Umbrella, which is a small organisation set up to support people with Charles Bonnet syndrome.
Secondly, we write eye health information booklets, like the Understanding series on the 10 most common eye conditions, which are co-authored with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. We also produce eye condition factsheets and the eye health information on RNIB’s website.
Finally, we provide eye health training for RNIB colleagues and for external agencies, and also answer information requests from colleagues, including dealing with media enquiries.
Tell us about the people in your team
We have six people in our team, who are all eye health specialists with backgrounds in optometry, nursing and research. Two of our team have doctorates in optometry, one person works in the clinics at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and two of us teach low vision to undergraduate and postgraduate optometrists.
How many queries do you get a year?
Last year we received more than 5,500 emails, letters and calls within the UK, with calls making up two-thirds of the queries. And our online eye health information had more than 1.5 million page views from all around the world.
What are some of the common questions you get?
We get such a variety! Every enquiry is different. Someone might call asking for advice about glaucoma drops, or about what to expect when recovering from retinal detachment and other types of eye surgery. Another person might want to talk about coping with their Charles Bonnet syndrome hallucinations.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
For me, it’s knowing that when we’ve spoken to someone, we’ve been able to give them time to talk about their eye condition which they may not have been able to get elsewhere. That we’ve helped to reduce their anxiety, or helped them to take an active role in the decisions that are made regarding their treatment, and be able to know enough to ask the right questions when they are in the hospital clinic or at the optometrist's next time.
Giving people this advice will help protect the vision they have left, because they understand how to look after their eyes much better than before they called us. To me, job satisfaction is about that feeling that you’ve been able to make someone's situation a little better.
What’s a typical day for your team like?
A couple of the team members will be handling and replying to enquiries, either by telephone or email for the day. The remainder of the team will be working on information development, such as reviewing and updating eye condition factsheets, as well as dealing with any eye health media enquiries, or enquiries about eye health from other areas of the organisation.
They may also be working on training and supporting newer members of the team or arranging eye health training for other teams in the organisation.
To speak to a member of the team, call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email queries to [email protected].