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Canberra Eye Laser feature

20 years of changing Canberra’s vision

HerCanberra Team

In July 1997, almost exactly 20 years ago, Wendy Holland assisted the first eye laser procedure in Canberra.

Two decades later, Wendy is still a proud member of the Canberra Eye Laser team.

“In some ways” she explains, “it does feel like a long time ago, and in others, I think ‘my goodness, have we really done laser for that length of time?’ You start to wonder if you’re old” she laughs.

It was an exciting period for the entire team at Canberra Eye Laser – the doctors, the orthoptists and the nursing staff. Because the technology was so new, the team faced a huge learning curve.

“We had three doctors, three orthoptists and two nurses. We all learnt together – that meant training, going to conferences overseas, learning techniques from around the world. We learned what other people were doing, about the machinery they used and how they talked to their patients. Rather than just the doctors going and learning the surgery, they thought it was important for us to learn as well.”

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The Canberra Eye Laser team on a trip to the Grand Canyon, following a conference in 2004

Wendy says that the sense of everyone being appreciated and valued is a big part of what makes Canberra Eye Laser such a wonderful place to work.

“It’s always been very much a process of involving all of us, really right from reception staff through to clinical staff, nursing staff and doctors. It’s a team approach and always has been at our Laser Centre. I guess it’s shown through in our loyalty: we still have three of those original staff members who work here. It’s pretty special.”

One of Wendy’s most special memories at Canberra Eye Laser was the very first laser patient.

“It was someone that had been waiting for it to come to Canberra, and he was really excited, really very positive. It was a great experience for all of us.”

For the team, it’s the privilege of helping patients with something as essential as their vision that makes their job so rewarding.

“Often their vision is fairly blurry straight after surgery, but I’ve had people sit up on the bed and see our clock and say ‘I’ve never been able to see that far before.’ For others, it’s just that feeling of waking up and reaching for their glasses on the bedside table, and then realising they don’t need them.”

“There’s just that whole wider field of vision. For some people it’s really quite emotional –more so for glasses wearers than contact wearers, because if you’ve always had glasses, especially really thick prescription glasses, suddenly that frame isn’t defining what you can see. It’s very exciting.”

To continue to be excited about a job you’ve been in for over two decades is no small achievement – a fact that isn’t lost on Wendy.

“It’s not just another job. It’s something that you can actually be really enthusiastic and passionate about as well. When I think about it, I’ve had 20 years of Laser Centre. For me, it’s about innovation and that level of the doctors being willing to take on challenges that aren’t just good for them – but have good outcomes for patients as well.”

Innovation seems to be a key foundation for Canberra Eye Laser. They were the first refractive laser surgery clinic to open in Canberra, and the first facility in the country to offer SMILE, a new generation of lasik surgery.

“We’ve had people come from New Zealand, from WA, Tasmania, Queensland and of course New South Wales as well. Our doctors are actually teaching others now with their experience.”

“It was very exciting when SMILE arrived. Looking back, it gave us confidence from having a really good product. From knowing that you can give something to people that’s actually been proven.”

When Wendy pauses to consider her fondest memories of Canberra Eye Laser, it really does come down to the shared experiences with patients and colleagues.

“It’s sharing those really happy results – those people who are just exceptionally happy. Then there’s the team building among the staff. We all have our own roles to play, but we couldn’t do that without each other. There’s really good friendships that have developed because of that.”

Canberra Eye Laser’s 20th birthday is not an event that will pause without significant celebration.

“We’re going to have a birthday party, so we’ll have a cake and those that are still here I’m sure will share lots of memories as well.”

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