December 2023 - Building resilience in optometry and ophthalmic dispensing students

Studying for a qualification may be stressful at times but building resilience is one way to help learners manage their stress. Is resilience determined by genetics, early life experiences or even luck? Whilst these factors can’t be modified, learners can be equipped with specific resilience building tools that will enable them to overcome obstacles they may face through their career. 

Understanding factors affecting resilience is necessary to develop methods of intervention. Several stressors are associated with healthcare professions, including time pressures, financial pressures, workload, having multiple roles and emotional issues[1], all of which test resilience. 

Nick Walsh FBDO, ABDO head of corporate development believes that bouncebackability, or resilience as it is more commonly known is demonstrated by each of us in many ways. It is about going through the tough times, setbacks and failures, not becoming derailed from the task, and remaining optimistic. 

Corporate Optometry have put together their ‘Recipe for Success in Optometry: Grit and Resilience’ and Optometry Today give their top tips on maintaining resilience. Similarly, Dr Anthony Rostain frame factors contributing to well-being as the “7 C's” of resilience: control, competence, confidence, contribution, coping, connection, and character. 

How to instil resilience in optometry and ophthalmic dispensing students

  • Encourage mindfulness. In BCLA's podcast, optometrist Sheena Shah credits daily mindfulness and meditation in helping her to be present and respond to, rather than react to situations
  • Set goals for leaners. Challenging situations are daunting but breaking down solutions into realistic, manageable steps will help learners to focus on progress rather than feeling overwhelmed
  • Undertake reflective practice. Not only does reflection support professional development but as the GOC states in their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) A guide for registrants, “it helps to embed good practice and has been linked to improvements in the quality of care given to patients.” Furthermore, experiencing failure provides a useful learning experience. Being able to reflect on, and learn from experiences helps to build resilience by ensuring better preparation in the future
  • Encourage learners to take responsible risks. When risk taking has a successful outcome this has a positive impact on self-esteem, an important trait of resilience
  • Develop and enhance learners' self confidence. Fostering a positive mindset and self-belief can help prepare learners in the face of adversity
  • Provide support and mentoring. Encouraging learners to ask for help, to talk to colleagues and consult with peers can help them cope with challenging situations. McAllister and McKinnon recommend exposure to role models who can share their experiences of being resilient. Resilience in the health professions: A review of recent literature 
  • Focus on wellbeing. No discussion on resilience would be complete without the consideration of mental wellbeing. This series of blogs and resources developed with and by pre-registration and undergraduate optometrists offers information about how to maintain mental health while studying, and where learners can find support if needed

Look out for next month's topic where learner wellbeing will be explored in greater depth.

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Bibliography and references 

Aryuwat et al examine empirical research on resilience among nursing students in the context of nursing education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on everyone, but healthcare workers have experienced a particular toll and will feel the impacts for years to come. Rachel G. Baskin examines resilience among healthcare workers during the coronavirus-disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Similarly, Heath et al's article summarises strategies to increase resilience in healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

General Optical Council (2022) Continuing Professional Development (CPD). A guide for registrants

Gheihman et al developed two straightforward, skills-based resilience exercises to promote resilience among medical students

Kunzler et al look at psychological interventions to foster resilience in healthcare professionals.

[1] Lambert et al., 2004; Lim, Hepworth, & Bogossian, 2011, McCann et al, Resilience in the health professions: A review of recent literature

Shirley Siu Yin Ching and Kin Cheung “Factors Affecting Resilience of Nursing, Optometry, Radiography and Medical Laboratory Science Students” looks at health care students studying in Hong Kong. 

Ruth Taylor et al make the case in their paper that education plays a vital role in developing the learners’ ability to work well and remain resilient in challenging healthcare environments.