AOP launches mentoring programme

The programme will support the development of newly-qualified optometrist members by connecting them with professionally experienced AOP members

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The AOP has developed a new mentoring programme for newly-qualified optometrist and dispensing optician members.

Aiming to support members on the newly-qualified membership grade, the AOP suggested the scheme can help mentees to improve their understanding, skills and knowledge, as well as grow in self-confidence and work towards their development and career goals.

Through a dedicated platform on the AOP website, the free AOP Mentoring Programme will pair newly-qualified optometrists with volunteer mentors to receive one-to-one support for a period between three to six months.

Describing what the scheme will provide, Sarah Melzack, AOP membership benefits officer, said: “The new AOP Mentoring Programme is a way for us to connect professionally experienced AOP members with newly-qualified members to help support their development during their first year in practice.”

She continued: “It’s been in the pipeline for some time, however with the difficulties and challenges in practice brought about by the pandemic, we thought launching something like this to help newly-qualified optometrists negotiate a world they were perhaps not quite prepared for, would be a great way to help keep them steady while they find their feet.”

How will it work?

The AOP Mentoring Programme is exclusive to members and will be accessed through the MyAOP section of the association’s website. Through the dedicated platform, both mentors and mentees can create a profile and will be matched according to their preferences for receiving or providing support.

For mentees, our hope is that this will provide them with a dedicated and unique source of support; someone who has their back


Mentoring matches can then be reviewed and accepted, Melzack said, with the mentee then responsible for organising an initial meeting, which can be face-to-face or virtual, “to discuss expectations and how best to work with one another.”

The AOP has suggested areas of support for newly-qualified optometrists might include:

  • Clinical management
  • Confidence building/dealing with doubt
  • Communication (patients)
  • Career progression
  • Adjusting to change
  • Self-development (core skills) or self-led learning and CET/CPD
  • NHS Performers (how to get on the list and obligations)
  • Relationship management/working with others

There are no mandatory requirements to the scheme, though it is recommended mentors and mentees have virtual or in-person contact once a week, Melzack shared. At the end of the mentoring period participants will be asked to provide feedback to enable the AOP to continue improving and expanding the service.

Mentors will be able to pause between relationships, or take on multiple mentees. Mentees will be able to apply for a mentor at any point whilst on the AOP’s newly-qualified membership grade, and will also be able to request new mentors once their initial relationship has closed.

Melzack shared: “For mentees, our hope is that this will provide them with a dedicated and unique source of support; someone who has their back.”

“Whether they have defined developmental goals, or just need a sounding board from someone neutral and outside of their practice, their mentor will be there to help them work through the issue,” she added.

For optometrists who might be interested in signing up as a mentor, Melzack suggested this could be an opportunity to “give back, develop their professional network and, fundamentally, help to develop and nurture a confident and capable younger peer.”

She continued: “Who knows what they might also learn from their mentee, too?”

The scheme is open to mentors to register their interest by emailing [email protected], with more than 50 mentors already in the programme and more set to join.

The programme has also now officially launched for newly-qualified optometrist members to register for a mentor, including details on how to access the platform through the AOP website.