Combining elements of optical education and avoiding a “tick-box” approach are among themes in the AOP’s submission on an overhaul of optical education.
The General Optical Council (GOC) gathered feedback on its education strategic review during a three-month consultation period that closed in March.
The review aims to ensure that qualifications leading to GOC registration equip students with the right skill set as technological change and the increasing prevalence of enhanced services alters the landscape of the profession.
The AOP submission on the review called for the GOC to take a less prescriptive approach to education. The submission also supported the development of a modular education model, where students of optometry study alongside students in other clinical specialties for some components of their qualification.
Skills before labels
Tying into this, the AOP submission contended that functions rather than titles could become more important in the future. This could result in professionals being registered to carry out a range of skills and functions rather than being defined by a professional label.
The importance of optometrists taking on an extended role and working as part of a multi-disciplinary team within healthcare was emphasised in the submission. It was suggested that while prescription should remain with optometrists, some other clinical processes could be delegated under the supervision of an optometrist.
AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, told OT that the membership organisation welcomed the GOC’s decision to review how optical education was delivered.
“The education review has been a key priority for the sector and for our policy work here at the AOP,” she highlighted.
“A key theme from our response was that education should be delivered in a way that helps students to build the knowledge that underpins their ability to adapt over the course of their career,” Ms Alderman emphasised.
The submission was informed by gathering views from the AOP Council and Policy Committee, as well as setting up a working group of experts in the field and inviting member views, Ms Alderman explained.
“We’re grateful to all the members who contributed,” she added.
There were common threads across many of the optical organisations that submitted on the review.
The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) also submitted feedback on the review during the consultation period.
ABDO, like the AOP, also welcomed a modular approach to education where students of different optical courses studied together during some components of their education.
The wood before the trees
The ABDO response emphasised the importance of approaching the eye health needs of patients in a more holistic manner. It suggested that a range of vision-related services could be offered alongside dispensing spectacles, including nutrition advice, smoking cessation and protective eyewear.
The membership body also called for dispensing opticians to be able to refract patients under the supervision of an optometrist.
Dispensing opticians were trained in delivering low vision services and eye-health advice, but the ABDO submission pointed out that these skills were underutilised following qualification.
A focus on outcomes
The Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians (FODO) highlighted in its submission the need for the GOC to be less prescriptive about the learning process and focus more on demonstrated outcomes. This could give educators the flexibility to determine the best way of teaching each skill and competency, FODO contended.
This was a common thread in The College of Optometrists response. The College contended that an outcomes model was becoming the norm for other clinical disciplines.
The College also called for optometry students to have a greater level of exposure to patients with different needs and conditions to increase the breadth of their clinical experience.
A GOC spokesperson confirmed that 55 responses were received in total on the education strategic review.