New research into AOP members’ careers could ultimately help to change the profession for the better.
In response to AOP Council members’ concerns on how commercial pressures have affected the health and wellbeing of practitioners, the Association has contracted Aston University to conduct a research project with its members.
The welfare and support study will provide the AOP with robust data to understand the scope and frequency of workplace stress across different modes of practice, and allow the organisation to better tackle the problem, the Association’s policy director, Kathy Jones, told OT.
"We need to understand the nature and the extent of the problem and that was the reason for doing the survey. We wanted to get the facts"
"We’ve heard many stories that optometrists are facing commercial and time pressures, with potential consequences for record-keeping. But we need to understand the nature and the extent of the problem and that was the reason for doing the survey. We wanted to get the facts," Ms Jones highlighted, adding: "We also want to understand what effect stress has on our members, how they currently deal with it and what type of support they are looking for."
"In that, we’re trying to find out what the AOP should be doing, such as what sort of advice or training would members find useful," Ms Jones explained.
Everybody on board
Aston University researchers, Dr Hannah Bartlett and Dr Victoria Lush, will conduct the survey, which will be released on 14 November and emailed to AOP members. The duo will also validate the results.
Dr Bartlett is an optometrist, and currently undertakes clinical optometric research as well as teaching at the university, while Dr Lush’s background is in computing and data collection.
Dr Bartlett emphasised to OT that a high member response rate is critical to the success of the project, adding: “The more people who take part and answer the questionnaire, the more representative the results will be. We are aware that other optical bodies have sent out other questionnaires.”
"The more people who take part and answer the questionnaire, the more representative the results will be"
Dr Bartlett explained that the survey strikes a fine balance so that it will not take too long to fill in, but will also allow the AOP to have strong data to use to address problem areas within the profession.
“It won’t be too onerous to complete. We know people are very busy,” she assured.
The survey, which will be open for members’ input for three weeks, will also ask AOP members about their career goals, from their flexible working desires to their aspirations to be their own boss.
Dr Bartlett noted that: “The work-life balance issue is very topical at the moment, so to get some scientific data on how people perceive these issues and how they want their lives and careers to move forward will be of interest to everyone.”
The initial results of the survey will be available at the start of 2017. The AOP policy team and the wider Association will then use this information in future work to support members, as well as understand their needs and ambitions, Ms Jones said.
“We would like to know – and have realised that we don’t know – how many of our members are really interested in developing clinically, and how many see their careers as an employee versus how many want to become business owners, as well as how people want to balance their careers against family and other priorities,” she concluded.
In the journal OT reported that the survey would open on 7 November. The survey will now open on 14 November.