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“Optometrists will need to carry on learning throughout their careers”

With the new and emerging technologies relating to eye health and eye care, how will optometry look at the end of all these changes and what will optometrists be doing, asks Henrietta Alderman

21 Dec 2018 by Henrietta Alderman

Hardly a week goes by without news of some great technological advance in optics. From apps for working out what glasses will suit you best, to the research collaboration between Moorfields Hospital with Google’s DeepMind for automated diagnosis of macular disease, no area of eye care is immune to technological change.

Auto-refraction, 3D printing, binocular OCT that can do everything from refraction to diagnosis, stem cell therapy in AMD, even gene therapy in certain conditions: all of these are in development or already in use. How will optometry look at the end of all these changes and what will optometrists be doing? 

Pessimists argue that if all the components of a professional’s job can be done by machines, better and cheaper, then there is no future for the profession. The more optimistic view is that the job will change and that the optometrist of the future will be an expert at interpreting the results of tests and explaining them to patients. Others suggest that there are enormous opportunities here for optometrists, aided by the new technology, to expand into areas of work previously the preserve of ophthalmologists.

“It is important that students have the underpinning technical knowledge that will help them deal with each new technological development they will face in their career”

Carry on learning

Against this background, the General Optical Council (GOC) launched its strategic review of education in 2017. The GOC wanted to explore how education should change in order to prepare student optometrists for the new world of work they would be joining. We may see a radically re-structured degree programme emerging from the review, with more patient contact from the outset and throughout the course. It is also important that students have the underpinning technical knowledge that will help them deal with each new technological development they will face in their career. The AOP is playing a leading role in ensuring that members interests are at the forefront of developments.

Even with that underpinning knowledge, optometrists will need to carry on learning throughout their careers. CET will become CPD. It will focus on developing new skills as well as maintaining existing ones. AOP will support members in their career-planning and of course will continue to provide relevant, high quality education. Later this month 100% Optical delivers its sixth instalment in London. The show has now firmly established itself as the largest UK event in the optical sector and is seen as a must attend for both exhibitors and visitors alike. And through our world class education programme, we will explore new and emerging technologies relating to eye health and eye care. This includes the advancement of retinal imaging for managing diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, and other conditions.

Our Optometrists’ Futures survey asked about clinical and professional qualifications and the survey showed that there is considerable appetite for further training and education in a wide range of skills, particularly among younger optometrists. 100% Optical provides an excellent opportunity to both learn about technology advances and to start to the year with some first-class education.

Whatever the outcome of these developments, 2019 will undoubtedly bring significant change for optometry. The AOP will continue to help shape changes within the sector and do all we can to protect, support and guide members through the changes.

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Image credit: Getty

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