October 2023 - How to instil professionalism in optometry and ophthalmic dispensing students?

Those training to become a registered health professional have a responsibility to ensure the care and safety of patients and the public, and to uphold professional standards. Professionalism – ethical, patient-centred, communicative behaviour – is just as essential as any other dimension of practice, says Becky McGall. As the General Optical Council's standards refer to professionalism, we take a look at how best to instil this in learners.  

Clinical Adviser, Denise Voon MCOptom's recording highlights the importance of continued learning as well as communication with colleagues and patients. 

  • Ensure clarity when defining professionalism

Professionalism is often taken for granted – but qualification alone does not necessarily confer it. This article explores the foundations of professionalism, and explains key concepts for optometrists in this college paper, Pillars of Professionalism. 

  • Through positive role modelling 

Using role modelling to instil professionalism is a common approach across the healthcare profession. Much research has gone into professionalism within pharmacy education. The concepts and suggestions raised are wholly relatable and transferable to optometry learners. Ellen I Schafheutle et al’s research and findings confirm the value of practice exposure and role modelling.

Daner P. Hammer et al address student professionalism in American pharmaceuticals. Through their comprehensive review, they provide suggestions based on evidence, experience and expert opinion.  

  • Consistent feedback  

Constructive and meaningful feedback is an essential part of learning that enriches learning and supports learners’ performance and progress. 

  • Through interprofessional collaboration (IPC) 

It is widely acknowledged that collaborative learning serves to benefit professionals and their patients. The World Health Organization make this link, stating that interprofessional education “occurs when two or more professionals learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes” Maria Olenick et al explore Interprofessional education: a concept analysis

Furthermore, Reeves S et al make the clear link between improving professionalism and IPC. “Interventions that address IPC problems have the potential to improve professional practice and healthcare outcomes.”

Julie F McClelland et al’s study also highlights the benefits of IPC.

Have your say

We welcome contributions to Topic of the Month and would love to hear from you. Please email Spokehub@college-optometrists.org with any suggestions of additional resources or case studies that could be added to the topics covered.

Bibliography and further reading

Adeela Bashir, MMEda and Irene J. McTaggart explore the perceptions of final year medical students with regard to role modelling in teaching professionalism, concluding that “Above all, role modelling is the most important strategy for improving professional behaviour.”

Practical classes and the use of real-life examples have proven to be influential. Adeela Bashir and Irene J. McTaggart’s study at a private medical college in Pakistan point to the value of role modelling, claiming it to be the most effective strategy for teaching professionalism. 

Edward Wargent and Claire Stocker highlight the value of role modelling in their paper regarding future doctors. 

Julian Upton explores the external and internal issues that can call an optical practitioner’s reputation into question – and how to deal with them. The New Optometrist

The Professional Standards Authority's response to the government consultation – Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation sets out their views on supporting professionalism.

Yan J, Gilbert JHV, Hoffman SJ. WHO Study Group on Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Practice. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2008. [Google Scholar]