“Our ability to perform tasks shifts over time”
Academic and AOP Councillor, Will Holmes, on the new training and education requirements, and the need to keep learning and adapting
21 January 2024
“You’ve passed your exams, you’re as qualified now as anyone else to do it,” so said a colleague to me a week or so after I had passed my optometry qualifying registration exams. I’m sure this statement came from a desire to build up my confidence. But was it true? Was I really as competent as a colleague who had been practising for decades?
In recent history optometry has been a profession with a ‘hard threshold’ – one day you require supervision and support, the next day you’ve passed your exams and you don’t. Yes, there needs to be a threshold standard, but surely the journey continues beyond that threshold, for well over 40 years in most cases? We all know from experience that our ability to perform tasks shifts over time.
Arguably, one positive of the new education standards is that they have encouraged more collaboration between education providers and employers
It has been over two years since the General Optical Council (GOC) published the new Requirements for Approved Qualifications in Optometry or Dispensing Optics. Shortly after the release of these new requirements, the GOC commissioned the Sector Partnership for Optical Knowledge and Education (SPOKE) to support educational institutions in adapting to the new requirements. This group is now onto its fifth project, Developing Independence in Student Optical Professionals. This work should be a really helpful addition to our thinking about how optometrists develop after their formal education ends, which, after all, is most of their professional life.
Yes, there needs to be a threshold standard, but surely the journey continues beyond that threshold, for well over 40 years in most cases
Arguably, one positive of the new education standards is that they have encouraged more collaboration between education providers and employers. One reason why this is important is that in addition to competence fluctuating over time it is well known that the ability to perform a task is context specific. Where you are and who you are with matters. Therefore, a greater understanding of the context within which learners will use the skills they learn is essential. I’d suggest that artificial intelligence is set to change those contexts profoundly in the coming years. One of the key urgent tasks for educators is considering how those changes in optometric practice should alter what those at all stages of their optometry career need to be taught and how they might learn. It’s possible that this may be an even greater challenge than adapting to new regulator requirements.
Will’s top picks
- Pre-reg focus: Read about the experiences of a group of pre-regs as they navigate their placement periods to qualification
- FTP waiting times: A look at the GOC’s fitness to practise waiting times and the impact on registrants
- OT skills guides: A valuable suite of video skills guides covering a range of key clinical topics.
About the author
Will Holmes is an optometrist and senior lecturer at the University of Manchester. He is also an AOP Councillor, representing university lecturers.