Responding to the General Optical Council (GOC) research findings that only 26 per cent of newly qualified dispensing opticians felt as though the clinical experience received during their studies was insufficient, compared to 60 per cent of newly qualified optometrists, Clive Marchant, President of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians says:
“We are encouraged by the findings of the GOC research which reported 74% of newly qualified dispensing opticians were satisfied with the level of clinical experience they receive during training and well prepared for life as a qualified dispensing optician. In comparison only 40% of newly qualified optometrists were satisfied.
“The training pathway for a dispensing optician can be a full time course but the majority of students undertake a 3-year distance learning diploma or degree course. It is the blended learning over 3 years which prepares the student for life after qualification. All students are working in optical practices for a minimum of 30 hours per week which enables them to gain experience and confidence in all aspect of their work. In contract Optometrists have very little exposure to real patients and optical practice until their pre-registration year.
“So how do we increase the skills and confidence of all our students? Undoubtedly we must move to a blended learning education program for all dispensing opticians and optometrists. Secondly the supervising registrant must be adequately trained in supervision and the expectations of the student and education provider.
“Currently a dispensing optician or optometrist can supervise a student dispensing optician. One must question how an optometrist can supervise from the consulting room and do they have sufficient knowledge to supervise in all aspect of dispensing?
“Finally many student dispensing opticians are mature students who have worked in practice for many years as an optical assistants which provides invaluable confidence, in contrast to the majority of optometrists embarking on their degree program have come directly from college or school education.”
Further to this finding, the survey also uncovered that 14% of optometrists felt that their time during the entire period of education and training was too short compared to 1% of dispensing opticians.