Recent optometry graduates fast tracked their experience with fitting contact lenses and contact lens patient care at a series of conferences hosted by Alcon Australia.
The graduate conferences, held in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria in late March, provided practical insights from optometrists and researchers as well as workshops where the delegates could practice fitting lenses.
At the commencement of the NSW conference, held at the Fairmont Hotel in Leura, many of the 35 attendees said their experience with contact lenses was limited and they’d received little training on contact lens products, patient care or fitting while at University.
Minimal Knowledge Out of Uni
Joshua Clark, a conference presenter and young independent practice manager from Hornsby in Sydney’s upper north shore, told delegates when he completed his studies in optometry in 2008, he came out of University knowing a lot about eye disease and the history of contact lenses, but his knowledge of contact
lens products was ‘quite minimal’.
He came out of University knowing a lot about eye disease… but his knowledge of contact lens products was ‘quite minimal
He said in his final year at Uni, he had just one contact lens clinic each week
and students often had to share patients.
“I wasn’t confident with prescribing contact lenses when I graduated,” said Mr. Clark, “and that’s a common feeling.”
However, he assured delegates that “through learning and trying with patients, you will build your confidence.”
First of Its Kind
Mr. Clark told mivision the Alcon Australia conference series was most likely the first of its kind for recent graduates. “This conference is more about contact lenses, about how to talk to patients and about how to use them – instead of talking about the science behind the products – it’s much more practical.”
He said the idea of providing intensive practical learning for young graduates is invaluable.
“Optometrists aren’t going to prescribe contact lenses if they’re not comfortable talking to patients about them and I think this is what’s happened in the past – having come out of University without the necessary knowledge, it’s easier to prescribe glasses.
“We hope this conference will give them the confidence to talk to patients about contacts and to prescribe them.”
That’s exactly what the delegates mivision spoke with were hoping to gain as well.
Stephen Witt, an optometrist with an independent practice in Devonport, Tasmania, said by attending the Leura conference, he hoped “to gain a bit more confidence in contact lens skills, tips
Szu-fan (Alice) Chen studied optometry at Auckland University and now works in practice in Invercargill on the southern-most, western-most point of New Zealand’s South Island. She said she’d come across to the conference hoping to learn more about multifocal lenses so she could introduce them to her presbyopic patients. “In our practice we’re trying to promote progressive lenses but not in the multi-focal area. I’d like to give patients the options but I want to be confident first,” she said.
Katrina Wong also studied at Auckland University. At the conclusion of her undergraduate studies, she moved across the Tasman to practise as a clinical resident in Melbourne at the Australian College of Optometry. She said her work and post-graduate studies to date are yet to include contact lens practice. “So I’ve come here to familiarise myself with contact lenses and to gain more practical experience as opposed to theoretical learning.”
Practice Building Opportunities
Helen Gleave, Alcon Australia’s Professional Affairs Manager told delegates about the huge difference contact lenses can make to patients’ lives, especially teenagers and presbyopes. “Seeing the change in a patient’s confidence one week after you have fitted them in contact lenses is very rewarding. Contact lenses are not only good for your patients’ self esteem and for adding satisfaction in your work, but are also good for your practice.
“If your contact lens wearers are happy with the lenses you prescribe, they’re more likely to spend more with you on their glasses as well as their lenses and consultations. If you prescribe lenses to meet your patient’s lifestyle needs, charge the appropriate fees and a realistic price for the contact lenses, your patients won’t want to go elsewhere.”
According to Mr. Clark, that means charging higher consultancy fees and a lower price for lenses. “Then your patients will value your professionalism. What’s more, the differential between your price and the internet will be less, so your patients will stay with you.
He added that the fact that Australia has the lowest percentage of contact lens wearers in the Western world makes no sense.