Wandering eye

Two former UK optometrists handed out 30 hockey pucks following their presentation Canadian optometry: it's not all maple syrup and beavers


Expat optometrists, Dr Euan McGinty and Dr David John Wilson, provided a snapshot of Canadian optometry at 100% Optical (27–29 January, ExCeL London).

Delegates were entertained with animations of the quintessential Canadian breakfast treat and nature's most adorable dam builders during the presentation Canadian optometry: it's not all maple syrup and beavers.

The former UK optometrists have been practising in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia for the past eight years.

Dr Wilson explained that they have two Ocean Optometry practices – a high-end boutique practice in Halifax and a family practice in Bridgewater.

At the Halifax practice appointments are 30 minutes long and cost $125, while in Bridgewater appointments last 20 minutes and cost $110.

A large number of pre-tests are performed by support staff before a patient will see an optometrist, including keratometry, auto-refraction, fundus photos and optical coherence tomography scans.

Dr McGinty said this style of working was an adjustment after working in the UK.

"That was quite strange to begin with, but I absolutely love it now and I would not go back," he observed.

Neither of the practices have visual field scanners, Dr Wilson shared.

"With all of the other technology that we've got, it has almost become obsolete," he added.

Optometry is provincially regulated in Canada. The Government provides basic, medically necessary coverage but does not provide funding for eyewear.

There is no automatic entitlement for children to receive glasses.

Dr McGinty emphasised that optometry is predominantly based in the community in Canada, with very few hospital optometrists.

He highlighted that there is a shortage of GPs in the country.

"The GPs are still the provider of general wellbeing but they are much more willing to refer patients with eye problems," he shared.

Dr Wilson explained that Canadian optometrists are able to prescribe a wide range of steroids and antibacterials.

"We will see everything from foreign bodies to uveitis. We don't need to refer unless it's outside our scope of practice," he highlighted.

Dr McGinty observed that in Canada, patients and staff perceive optometrists as medical professionals.

He is not afraid of charging for the expert services that he provides as an optometrist.

"One of the things that we've found in Canada is that it's nice to get the honorary title of being a doctor but, more importantly, it does change the way you practise," he explained.

"When I would practise in the UK, you would have this idea in your mind: 'If in doubt, refer it out,'" he added.

Optometrists in the UK are often reluctant to ask a patient to pay for a follow up appointment, Dr McGinty observed.

"I really think as optometrists we're missing a trick. I think it is our own personal hang-ups that are preventing us from being more progressive," he elaborated.

Dr McGinty said that practising outside of the UK has been a fantastic journey.

"We have had to be open to ideas and able to push ourselves out of our comfort zones," he shared.

Dr Wilson recommended the experience.

"Stop procrastinating and just do it. Comfort zones are comfortable for a reason – you're not stretching yourself," he concluded.

Image credit: Flickr/Brad Stutz