Case study - Interprofessional (Optometry/Pharmacy) Case Management: Communicating and combining expertise and skills to better manage patients’ ocular health

Title of case study/example of best practice:Interprofessional (Optometry/Pharmacy) Case Management: Communicating and combining expertise and skills to better manage patients’ ocular health
Lead Author(s):Dr Julie McClelland PhD, MCOptom, SFHEA, Dip(TP)IP 
Co-authors:Mr Iain Jack, Registered Pharmacist, Mr Patrick Richardson  MCOptom, FHEA, Dip(TP)IP
University:Ulster University 
Lead Author email 
Details of the activity undertaken

In order to consolidate knowledge of ocular/systemic disease and further develop clinical decision-making and communication skills gained in first, second and third year modules, an interprofessional teaching and learning session is delivered for third year/level 6 Optometry and final year/level 7 Pharmacy students.  Students work together in small groups on case scenarios which have been specifically selected such that Optometry students bring knowledge relating to certain aspects of the case (e.g., eye related terminology/signs/symptoms) and Pharmacy students bring supporting knowledge on medication and/or systemic conditions. The inter-disciplinary groups work together using and sharing their discipline-specific knowledge and appreciating the over-laps in expertise. The groups discuss the scenarios as if they are working in a community Optometry practice with a Pharmacy colleague working ‘next door’ to determine a diagnostic and management plan for each case. This approach facilities cross-fertilisation of knowledge between the students and encourages the students to appreciate the value and modes of inter-professional communication in order to best meet patients’ needs.   

As part of the cumulative and spiral nature of undergraduate optometry training, this teaching initiative integrates knowledge from across the Optometry curriculum, including ethics and legal issues.  The activity builds on knowledge gained in first year (basic clinical skills, decision-making and systemic pathology), second year (ocular health and disease, advanced clinical skills, clinical decision-making, and patient management) and third year (management of ocular conditions, including therapeutic prescribing of ocular medications). 

Impact of the activity

Optometry students are generally aware of the value of and need for effective communication between optometrists and other eyecare professionals (ophthalmologists, orthoptics, dispensing opticians etc.) and have a clear idea of their role in the eyecare landscape and how their work relates to and relies on other eyecare professionals. However, they are often less certain of how their professional practice interfaces with other healthcare professions and how important communication with other healthcare professionals may be when considering management and treatment options for certain patients.  This joint MPharm/Optometry activity occurs in the second semester of third year, before students enter extended clinical placement in the fourth year of training.  At this point, students have developed sufficient clinical and professional skills to benefit from the activity and take their increased confidence in clinical management and professional communication forward into their clinical work. 

This session, which has been delivered to Optometry and MPharm students for approximately eight years, has evolved and responded to changes in guidance and policies, particularly in relation to the College of Optometrist’s Clinical Management Guidelines and the relevant Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Pharmaceutical Society NI guidance.   Feedback from students reflects the value they perceive in this activity and their enjoyment of the sessions. They articulate that the activity allows them better understanding of colleagues’ professional scope of practice and report that the activity increases their own confidence in their knowledge and communicating with other professionals. 

A evaluation of an early iteration of this this teaching initiative was published in 2015  (

This case study relates to the following GOC outcomes:

Outcome 1. Person Centred Care ☐

Outcome 2. Communication ☒

Outcome 3. Clinical Care ☐

Outcome 4. Ethics and Standards ☐

Outcome 5. Risk ☐

Outcome 6. Leadership and Management ☐

Outcome 7. Lifelong Learning ☐

Scaffolding/Student experience & engagement ☐