Meet the team – Binal Patel, Optical Lead
24 January 2020
A gory incident during work experience diverted Binal’s career from dentistry to optometry, and she has never looked back …
LOCSU Optical Lead Binal chose science A Levels and had her heart set on becoming a dentist, until valuable work experience changed her mind. She recalls: “I had done a week working in a dental practice and absolutely loved it, then on the last day a patient had a tooth extraction – there was blood everywhere and I knew immediately that dentistry was not for me!”
Binal decided to explore optometry as an alternative and, after having learned the importance of work experience, she took a thorough approach by spending her gap year working at a high street optician. “I really enjoyed the year and built up my communication skills as well as developing a good appreciation for what the role involved.” She says. “I found it gave me an advantage when I started my course – I could see the practical applications of what we were being taught.”
Originally from London, Binal took her degree in Optometry at Aston University and on graduation she was more than ready to leave behind the student life and start building her career: “I did my pre-reg year in Hemel Hempstead and then worked as a mobile optician with Boots for two years. This was really good experience because I went into lots of different practices and got a range of experience, but all the systems were the same, which made things easier.”
Binal’s next post was in Specsavers in Milton Keynes, where she progressed to become a Senior Optometrist. At this point she “decided it was time to get married” but first she wanted to travel, so she set off for three months travelling around South East Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
After her marriage, Binal moved to Essex, where she first took on locum work, before buying into a Specsavers franchise. Before long, however, children came along – a girl and boy – meaning Binal needed more flexibility. The answer was a return to locum work, which she now does two days per week.
As her children got older, Binal decided she’d like to explore different avenues and this led to her applying to become a committee member of Essex LOC. The first meetings she describes as “a bit daunting.” However, after a year getting to know the workings of LOCs, the Optical Lead role came up at LOCSU and Binal felt it was the ideal position to undertake. She started in September 2019 and is firmly focused on building relationships with the LOCs she supports and sharing knowledge between them about what works well for each LOC.
Binal has no regrets about her decision to opt for optometry: “The flexibility has been important for me, especially having young children, but I also love going into practice, building a rapport with patients and problem-solving.”
Thinking about the challenges faced by the optical sector, Binal feels that IT and communications development is key: “Get that right and it becomes so much easier to roll out services.”
When she is not working, Binal is fully occupied helping her daughter, 8, and son, 6, pursue their many hobbies: “I am definitely Mum’s taxi,” she says, “especially at the weekend with dance lessons, football, rugby and the rest – by the time I get home at 2pm on a Saturday I’m definitely in need of a good cuppa.”
Curling up with a cup of a tea and a good book is a luxury for Binal and, despite her aversity to gore, she is a fan of crime fiction and loves a good “whodunnit”. Asked which celebrity she’d like to meet, Binal says she’d love to chat to Prince Harry: “I admire his decision to do things his own way and I’d love to talk to him about it. He has learned from past experience and is determined to be in control of his and his family’s future. He seems really down to earth.”
As someone who has shaped her career by learning from experience, we’re sure that Binal and the Duke of Sussex would find they have a few things in common!