60 seconds with…Kathy Jones

The policy advisor at the AOP discusses the launch of a survey to better understand what drives optometrists’ career choices

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What is the AOP's Optometrists' Futures survey?

The AOP has engaged the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) to carry out a survey of optometrists. The survey is designed to help us understand the career aspirations and motivations of optometrists.

Why is the AOP conducting the survey?

We want to understand what drives optometrists’ career choices so that we can help them achieve their ambitions and so that we can help employers recruit and retain the right people. We know from our health and wellbeing survey that the biggest issue for employers in optics, whether multiples or independents, is recruitment and retention of staff. What should they be doing to attract good staff and then to keep them? 

Previous work, such as the optometric workforce survey conducted for the sector by the College of Optometrists, has answered some questions and prompted more. We know that more and more people are working as locums, but we don’t know how many more might do so, nor whether current locums might opt for an employed role later in their careers. We learned how long people intended to stay in optometry, but we don’t know what might motivate them to stay longer, or seek advancement or move to a shortage area. 

The AOP’s health and wellbeing survey revealed that less than a quarter of optometrists would be prepared to relocate in order to achieve their career goals. Why is this? Is it because there are sufficient career opportunities without the need to move? Or is it to do with non-work factors like family ties and responsibilities?

"We want to hear from locums, as they are a significant part of the workforce now"

Is there anyone the AOP particularly wants to hear from?

We want to hear from all optometrists, whether they are AOP members or not. We have noticed that younger people are less likely to respond to surveys than older ones (it’s a trend in society as a whole, not just in optics) and so we want to hear from young people, and particularly from students, young women and people from ethnic minority groups, in order to make the results as representative of the whole profession as possible. And we want to hear from locums, as they are a significant part of the workforce now.

We want to hear from managers and employers too. There are specific questions for them in the survey about recruitment and retention of staff, and we are very keen to hear the views of employers who are facing recruitment difficulties, and from those who have succeeded in recruiting and retaining optometrists.

What will the AOP do with the results?

The AOP will use the results in a number of ways. One is to tailor our services to members’ needs and develop new services in light of the findings. For example, it may help us identify additions to our education programmes at 100% Optical and throughout the year. The AOP can also use the results to help employers understand what they can do better to attract and retain staff.

How do I take part?

AOP members will receive an email from the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) containing a unique link to the survey. The survey is completely anonymous, although respondents will be given the options of offering their contact details for the possibility of a follow-up interview by IES.

Optometrists who are not members of the AOP can also participate. Some may receive an email via their employer, and others can access a non-member link via the AOP’s Facebook page.   

The survey will be launched today (18 April). 

Image credit: Getty