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What is ophthalmology?

Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine that focuses on the eye. Ophthalmologists deal with patients who have both acute eye conditions and people suffering from long term eye problems. The UK has less ophthalmologists per capita than most other developed countries and there are only a few universities that currently offer postgrad studies in ophthalmology.

Considering the strict entry requirements in the field of ophthalmology, it is perhaps not surprising that the number of UK ophthalmologists is so low. To get your foot through the door, you need to complete five years at medical school, followed by a two year foundation programme and then seven years in ophthalmic specialist training. That's a total of fourteen years of study.

Ophthalmologists usually work in a specialist clinic, treatment clinic or in a surgery. As they're required to carry out surgery on the eye, it is essential to have good eyesight, manual dexterity and good hand-eye coordination. Ophthalmologists often carry out cataract surgery and glaucoma surgery.

This speciality tends to be a 9-5 discipline, but many ophthalmologists work "on call" from time to time while others hold evening clinics on a weekly or monthly basis. Although it is a very rewarding job, it can also be highly stressful and emotional draining. Patients don't usually have life threatening issues, but breaking the news that someone will never be able to see again is always going to be a difficult task.

It is normal for ophthalmologists to treat about 10-15 patients a day while working in a clinic and or 3-6 in a surgery.

A career in ophthalmology requires a lot of hard work, but the rewards are usually worth the effort. Ophthalmologists are often in high demand and the job satisfaction tends to be very high too. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists can offer lots of further information, advice and news about ophthalmology events, as well as career advice and patient information.

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