Beyond the lens: Michael Cosstick’s compassionate care at Westmead Hospital’s Eye Clinic

Westmead Hospital’s Michael Cosstick is a veteran when it comes to eye health. Now the Head Orthoptist at the hospital’s Eye Clinic, he has held positions ranging from patient-facing care to research and everything in between.

But it’s the chance to help the person – not just the patient on the system – that he finds the most rewarding.

We see a lot of patients at the Westmead Hospital Eye Clinic that do have quite low vision or are classified as legally blind, and they often come in quite regularly for reviews, so we naturally build up a rapport with them.”

In celebration of International Allied Health Professions Day, Michael spoke with The Pulse about his role and what it means to be an allied health staff member at Western Sydney Local Health District.

He also shared a story about a young woman who was having a sudden issue with her eyesight and didn’t realise she could access services such as the guide dog program.

For Michael, her visits became more than a check up on her eye health, but a follow up on her process getting the assistance she needed.

“She was having a lot of trouble at home managing her day-to-day tasks, especially since she lived alone. Through those conversations we can make a difference to their lives.

“These sorts of cases and the people you meet while doing your job; they really show that the work we do here makes a difference and has a big impact on their lives.

“I felt a similar way while working in research too, like I was making a difference for future patients too.”

At the Eye Clinic in Westmead Hospital, Michael says they are seeing anywhere from 150 – 180 patients in a day.

While this may be a substantial case load, he says the Clinic operates in a smooth way to ensure that all who visit are getting the treatment they need.

“If you see the patient as a person, complete with their experiences and difficulties and how their health issues impact their life more broadly, you’re going to better assist the patient. They’re not just an MRN number.

“We treat people with some lifelong issues and they come in regularly. So you get to see the person beyond the appointment. And they will update you on their lives and what they are struggling with – sometimes on how this impacts their vision, and other times just about their day.

“Not only is this job about the incredible work we do saving people’s sight or preventative work – that is obviously a source of satisfaction. But it’s a reward seeing that person in that particular moment of their day and being able to support them.”