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Thursday / May 30.
HomemitwocentsWhen Practice Makes Perfect

When Practice Makes Perfect

Continued professional development is great, and it can even be a whole lot of fun, until you’re spending so much time undertaking it that you can’t afford the time to practise

The electronic / digital age we are now so thoroughly soaking in has many advantages. High among them, for the average punter, is the ability to receive our correspondence rapidly, if not instantly.

Envelopes with stamps on them are known by our children as ‘snail mail’, which is accurate and in the rapper’s theme, it rhymes as well. How nice.

The ‘e’ in email is being phased out as laptops, tablet devices (don’t you just hate that term) and smart phones (mine can never find itself when I misplace it so how smart can it be?) become the primary vehicles for sending and receiving documents as well as images and conversations.

Like any good business and successful organisation, some objective introspection can be useful

How many of your children have had the experience of grimacing with the aftertaste, having licked an envelope and a stamp? Not something you miss at all but the corollary is, they haven’t handwritten any correspondence either.

Knowing my 22-year-old doesn’t subscribe to mivision (he’s not an Optometrist or training to be an Ophthal) I can safely say his handwriting is abominable. He grips a pen like a chimpanzee squeezing a banana out of its skin. The result is a scribble (what do they teach our children in primary schools these days where ‘Control, Alt, Delete’ has replaced the humble eraser?). Spell check is terrific if you are American. It makes NAPLAN a nonsense.

Whereas street front mail boxes have ‘No Junk Mail’ stickers to ward off the pamphlet droppers, our email box has a ‘Junk’ file that supposedly sorts the rubbish and scammers from the legitimate. Fat chance based on my latest arrivals from the ubiquitous penis enlarging offers to the more disturbing major bank and ATO emails requesting you log in with your passwords to their hyperlink (that’s a technical term I will ask the 22 year old about when he takes the headphones off and his eyes readjust from computer distance to somewhere in real space)… What is the latest feedback from optometrists on over convergence issues with our younger generation?

Naturally I get my OAA correspondence via email. It saves postage costs, printing costs and recycling effort and saves energy and I feel I am making a contribution to reducing my carbon footprint when I tick the ‘I want electronic mail’ box on much of my correspondence.

This is why I know that the Super Sunday, Tassie Lifestyle Conference, North Queensland, SRC Education program, the SA Blue Sky Congress etc, etc are being held, how much they will cost and, for goodness sake, the emails beg, ‘Register SOON’.

What’s the Future?

My latest inbox offering informed me that the NSW Ski Conference was being canned due to lack of numbers. At first glance my index finger twitched toward the ‘delete’ button as I don’t ski, I only attend conferences as a speaker and was hoping to be in the UK watching cricket at that time anyway. But then I started thinking… lack of numbers?

Perhaps I mused, global warming had come to the typically fickle Australian Alps and a lack of powder coverage had dissuaded the swooshing optoms from running the radar gauntlet through Canberra and Cooma to Jindabyne… but reports of snowfalls are on a very short-term rotation. The next thought was more disturbing. What was the future for CPD points if a warm fuzzy, laid back ski conference was cancelled?

Surely this wasn’t apathy from a profession that has battled and won wider recognition for the outstanding health care it provides.

This cancellation notice got the alarm bells ringing so I did a quick vox pop (electronically of course) with a few of my optometrist chums who still have their noses to the refractorhead and brows to ophthalmoscopes. They are dedicated, primed and delivering the daily dose of high quality patient throughput around the nation. Their responses were disturbing and illuminating.

Jaded Customers

After a flurry of activity in delivering vocational education it looks like the market is saturated and the customers jaded. Three major themes emerged.

The component of face-to-face education was:

  1. Inconvenient – Australia is a big country and NSW a big state. Getting there may have involved two plane flights or a three to four hour drive from Sydney running the above mentioned traffic corridor of uncertainty.
  2. Expensive – it was estimated that the ski conference would see a local NSW optometrist around AUD$2000 out of pocket and maybe a day or even two missed from their practices, and if they had kids then it was babysitting or have them in tow. “Business is tough” was a line used more than once, especially for independent optometrists who serve an important portion of the community where quality of service is paramount.
  3. Superfluous – this surprised the most. The classic comment was “how much can you learn about glaucoma?” meaning that the subject had been covered, expertly, in a number of courses and conferences in the immediate past and that given points one and two above, there was little to be learned from going over the territory one more time.

The observations are by their nature general and will apply more to some than others but if that disenchantment is widely spread then there could be more conferences cancelled in the near future.

The CPD audit process was thought to be “extensive, time consuming and mostly irrelevant”.

Like any good business and successful organisation, some objective introspection can be useful. Perhaps the online education process can be expanded and eligible points spread over a longer term. Whatever the course correction may be, it must be remembered that outstanding patient care follows not simply well educated and informed practitioners, but engaged and purposeful ones who have time to run a business while delivering high quality vision care.