|Dispensing optician Gillian has her sights set on top professional award
A DISPENSING optician from a Chorley store has one of her profession’s glittering prizes firmly in her sights.
Gillian Hurst, 37, who works at Boots Opticians in Market Walk shopping centre has been chosen to represent the company in the prestigious Optician Awards 2013.
It means she will be proudly carrying the standard for around 300 of her fellow dispensers based at branches nationwide.
The accolade recognises her dedication to the job and the warm rapport she has established with patients both young and old at the Market Walk branch where she has worked for most of the past 15 years.
She was put forward for the annual awards – acknowledged as the Oscars of the optical world – by branch manager Katrina Kay because of her ‘exceptional’ qualities and will hear next month if she has reached the shortlist in the Dispensing Optician of the Year category and a place at the glittering presentation evening to be staged at Birmingham’s Hilton Metropole Hotel on April 13.
Gillian, who lives in Wigan with her husband Keiron and children Faith, eight, and four-year-old Cameron, originally obtained a physiology degree from Newcastle University and at that stage had no thoughts of becoming a dispensing optician.
She explained: “I did some laboratory work while I was still at university and decided it wasn’t for me. I’m a people person and being based in a lab is a bit of a solitary existence.
“I happened to visit my local opticians, where I had been going regularly since I was a child, and they told me they were looking for a dispensing assistant.
“They knew me really well and offered me the job and I haven’t looked back since. I think fate does sometimes take over.”
Gillian later went on to study to become a dispensing optician and qualified in her profession at the end of a three-year course at Bradford College.
It was at the same time that she graduated in the year 2000 that she won her first award, from the Association of British Dispensing Opticians for her excellent final examination results.
Gillian joined the staff at Boots Opticians in Market Walk 15 years ago and has been there ever since, apart from short spells working at the Boots branch in Bolton and teaching the anatomy side of optical dispensing back at Bradford College.
Her branch manager Katrina Kay said of her: “We put Gillian forward for the Optician Awards, which are run annually by the trade magazine of that name, because of her exceptional qualities.
“She is quite simply fantastic at her job, a very dedicated lady and also a lovely person who would do anything to help her patients.
“She is an absolute asset to the practice and she has her own loyal band of customers, some of whom come in just to see her.
“I put her forward for the awards and was delighted to see she had been chosen to represent the whole of Boots Opticians nationally, which is a great honour for Gillian herself and for this branch.
“She will be representing Boots against the whole industry and that means the large opticians groups and the smaller independents.
“We all wish her well and are keeping our fingers crossed that she goes through to the shortlist for the finals.”
Also keeping her fingers crossed for Gillian is Sandra Hawkins, Market Walk Manager, who said: “It is wonderful news to hear that Gillian has been selected to represent the whole of Boots Opticians nationwide and I wish her lots of luck with her nomination.
“She is a real asset to Market Walk and embodies the very family friendly and welcoming atmosphere we strive to create at the shopping centre.
“Many of our visitors return time after time because they receive the sort of service which Gillian provides.”
Gillian, who works four days a week at the branch to fit in with her family life, said: “I enjoy working here because it is a really lovely place with a good team of staff and great customers.
“Even though we are part of a multiple organisation it is very much a community-based practice.
“We provide spectacles for people right across the age range from eight months upwards and cater for every generation.
“I’ve personally dispensed for all four generations of one family.
“I enjoy my job very much because sometimes you can actually make a real difference to people by ensuring they get the correct pair of glasses.”
She added: “I only found out last week I had been put forward for the Optician Award 2013 and it was a really pleasant surprise.
“I’ll be carrying the standard for about 300 dispensers at our branches across the country and that is a great honour for myself and the branch.
“I am very grateful for the nomination and anything else I might achieve.
“We have nine staff working at the branch and they are all rooting for me.
“I have no idea whether I will make it on to the shortlist, which will be announced in February, but I would obviously like to get to the presentation evening in Birmingham.”
For 2013, hand-made Art Deco trophies will be presented to award winners in 17 categories at the black tie bash at the Hilton Metropole.
As ever, the awards will be the biggest party night of the year in the optical calendar with a drinks reception, three-course dinner, audio visual show and a celebrity A-list host.