What a difference 48 hours makes

Bhargavi Zinzuwadia reviews the Student Conference

AOP student conference

Attending this year’s AOP Student Conference, which was held at Warwick Conference Centre on 26–27 November, was one of the most valuable experiences of my degree to date.

For the first time since the AOP established the two-day event, which was traditionally designed for second-year optometry undergraduates, the education package was extended to third-year students.

As a final-year undergraduate at Aston University, I attended the conference specifically for this reason, and was not disappointed.

While university provides undergraduates with the foundation for clinical knowledge, in my experience, students usually struggle with implementing this knowledge in practice. However, with a wide variety of lectures that covered everything from testing times and communication, to practical clinical skills, the conference has certainly given me a head start in this, and for my pre-reg year.

Being able to interact with assessors from the College of Optometrists, who will form a key part of the pre-reg year, as well as clinical experts and peers from across the UK, allowed me to learn something new during each day of the event.

Interactive learning

A highlight for me was the series of clinical circuits, through which I was able to refine my basic practical skills in a range of areas including the cover test, pupil reactions, the assessment of the visual field and ocular motility.

Participating in my first peer discussion, with a range of clinical scenarios posed, allowed me to practise keeping my explanations simple and specific, something that I know will be important when it comes to the assessment visits during Stages 1–4 of the pre-reg period. Isn’t this exactly what a patient would expect too, I found myself thinking.

What’s in a question

"I would highly recommend attending the AOP Student Conference to optometry student in every year because there is something to learn from everyone you meet"

Communication is an important aspect of optometric practice, whether you are an optometrist or another member of the practice team, Sarah Morgan informed students during her talk Top 10 communication tips for exceptional optometrists.

With the room’s full attention, Ms Morgan certainly enhanced students’ understanding of just how important the manner in which a question is posed during an eye examination is. She explained that it can be considered the key difference between being a good optometrist and an exceptional optometrist. For me, this learning experience was invaluable.

The top tips offered by current pre-reg student Hassnain Safdar during his talk included being organised, keeping a personal record of everything and always asking for feedback. As I prepare to embark on my pre-reg placement next summer, these tips are something that I will take on board and I encourage my third-year peers to do the same.

Taking to the stage shortly afterwards, College assessor and visiting lecturer at Aston University, Louise Munns, explained the pre-reg period from an assessor’s point of view.

During her talk, Ms Munns emphasised that any assessor, and in fact supervisor, expects pre-reg optometrists to be proactive, know each assessment’s criteria and engage with them.

For me, it was particularly reassuring to learn that I will be able to communicate with my assessors via email throughout the pre-reg year, enabling us to share any concerns and also ask any questions that we may have.

From Ms Munns’ talk, I learnt what to expect in all four pre-reg assessment visits, which in turn has given me guidance on how I can actively prepare for the pre-reg period while I am still in my final year of university.

A final word

Speaking to Ms Morgan during the conference, I heard that: “The harder you work in your final year, the easier your pre-reg will be.”

Although this may seem a difficult thing to achieve alongside the overwhelming amount of work in the final year, it is something I will strive to do in order to make my pre-reg year a better learning experience.

As a third-year student, I got a lot out of attending the conference and I was not alone. Speaking to one second-year undergraduate, they told me: “It was a good opportunity to meet new people, understand the different routes in optometry after graduation and learn important tips for our pre-registration applications.”

Personally, I would highly recommend attending the AOP Student Conference to optometry students in every year because there is something to learn from everyone you meet throughout the two days.

Good luck to all undergraduates on completing your degree, and I hope this article has provided some useful insight.