Education is currently high on the profession’s agenda. As we write this the General Optical Council (GOC) are continuing their Education Strategic Review (ESR) and have just completed a consultation on high-level principles. The clinical experience required and the competencies that students should demonstrate are two of the principles on which the GOC have consulted. When clinical experience is discussed the focus is often on students seeing real patients in a real clinical environment. In their paper Shah et al. discuss the benefits of using simulated patients in optometry. They conclude that, whilst simulation should not replace experience with real patients, the benefits of clinical simulation could be better realised in optometric teaching.
The clinical competencies required of an optometry graduate are the focus of a paper by Holmes and Myint. The paper reports the use of a process called the Delphi technique to appraise the competencies the GOC currently require optometry graduates to demonstrate. These competencies have particular relevance to all optometrists who supervise pre-reg students as they describe what the competence of their trainee should be on arrival. Their findings suggest that some modification of the competencies should be considered.
As part of the ESR the GOC have also been consulting on both the timing of clinical placements and the exams students should take to enter the register. Currently, almost all optometry graduates complete the College of Optometrists’ scheme for registration and professional examinations in order to qualify. Whitaker provides an overview of the scheme which will be helpful for those directly supervising and those supporting pre-registration students.
The competencies that need to be demonstrated in order to register as an optometrist form the basis of the GOC’s continuing education and training (CET) scheme. Recently it has been announced that the GOC will consult on possible changes to the CET scheme in parallel with the ESR. In their paper Webster and Gillibrand investigate how registrants perceive the current CET system affects their practice.
The Foresight Project Report has highlighted the potential impact of future and current technological advances on the profession. One of the drivers for the ESR has been a need to ‘prepare students for future practice’. Careful consideration is needed when integrating technology into learning. Crompton and Burke describe frameworks that can be used when considering how to do this effectively.
Outside of the practice environment, there is also a wider educational role which optometrists may perform as they interact with other professions. McClelland et al. describe an example of this wider role in their paper reporting on a project designed to help primary school teachers understand the impact various visual impairments might have on learning in the classroom.
In recent years there has been a rise in the number of UK universities offering optometry degrees. This expansion has prompted considerable debate. Very little is known about the motivations of the expanding cohort of students entering the profession. Bergmanson et al. present the findings of a study exploring attitudes and ambitions of students at a US optometry college. It is interesting to note that, whilst there are clear differences between the UK and USA, there are also many similar challenges (eg areas where there are fewer optometrists) and changes (eg increase in the number of optometry schools).
We hope that you find this special issue both interesting and useful. It is likely that the next few years will see considerable changes in optometry education. We hope that this issue of Optometry in Practice will stimulate further research and discussion in the area.