A new milestone has been reached in the training for optometrists at the University of New South Wales with the awarding in October of its Graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapy to the first 24 optometrists to gain their postgraduate therapeutic qualification in NSW.
This will enable them to apply to the NSW Optometrists Registration Board for a NSW Optometrist Drug Authority, enabling them to prescribe a limited range of topical therapeutic medications in their clinical practice.
The course, initiated by Associate Professor Phil Anderton (current OAA NSW President) and controlled by Professor Fiona Stapleton, Head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science, has been accredited by the Optometry Council or Australia and New Zealand and therefore qualifies its graduates to practice in a manner allowed by the laws of any State of Australia or in New Zealand.
For example, there will be considerable immediate benefit for those glaucoma patients who now will be able to be monitored and treated under a “shared care” management plan agreed between their town’s therapeutic optometrist and distant collaborating ophthalmologist
As well as covering the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease in primary care, this course concentrated on the biochemical basis of drug action, the ocular and visual side effects of commonly-prescribed systemic medications, and the physiology and pathophysiology of common cardiovascular and respiratory systemic diseases.
According to Prof. Anderton, these themes remain in the current didactic course (Ocular Therapy 1) along with the primary care management of uncomplicated infectious and inflammatory diseases of the anterior eye and the collaborative management of glaucoma under a “shared care” arrangement with an ophthalmologist.
A newer second subject (Ocular Therapy 2) oversees clinical experience in Hospital Eye Departments and with local participating ophthalmologists.
Professor Anderton says that the immediate benefits will be felt by patients in rural and regional NSW, in terms of reduced waiting times to see a practitioner, and reduced distances to travel for their examination.
He expects increased networking and improved collaboration between therapeutic optometrists, local general practitioners and the local ophthalmologists, and this could well improve the working conditions for all practitioners in rural areas where patient service demand is high.
“For example, there will be considerable immediate benefit for those glaucoma patients who now will be able to be monitored and treated under a “shared care” management plan agreed between their town’s therapeutic optometrist and distant collaborating ophthalmologist,” says Prof Anderton.