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HomemicontactWhat’s the Best Way to Learn, Doc?

What’s the Best Way to Learn, Doc?

We’re learning all the time, in a multitude of ways, yet many effective modes of learning remain unrecognised.

I’m penning this missive on the road, touring the amazing Australian Outback after I presented on the digital realm, keratoconus and cataract co-management at the 2017 AUSCRS conference on Hamilton Island during August (see my full report on page 40). I also spoke at the 2017 ICCLC meeting in Sydney in early September. Now, I’m about to head off to South Africa to present at the newly reformed Contact Lens Society meeting and catch up with friends and family.

During the course of my travels between conferences, I’ve been pondering the question, ‘What’s the Best Way to Learn?’

As practitioners we are compelled to take part in a significant amount of continuing professional development (CPD) in order to maintain registration and our licence to practice. It wasn’t always compulsory and to my mind, voluntary CPD was more effective than the enforced version. In the old days, before compulsory CPD and compliance restrictions imposed by industry suppliers, things were a lot more fun and laid back. Today drug companies and suppliers of things like IOLs and contact lenses are often ridiculously forbidden to take part in trade fairs and CPD events in resort environments. This means that many CPD events take place in more formal settings and boring CBD hotels. Delegates too, are less motivated as they have to be there as opposed to wanting to be there to learn, as it used to be.

she’s taken to using the camera of her iPhone. She… switches to the ‘selfie’ camera view and uses this to easily insert her lenses

This makes quite a difference.

In the recent past we’ve seen the advent of open and closed groups on Facebook and other social media. These are excellent learning environments and are increasingly used. Participants share cases, seek help in diagnosis and management of tricky cases and offering the best care. They are often advised by skilled experts and experienced specialists in their respective fields. Some light-hearted banter also takes place. Alas the CPD police have not yet got on board with this aspect of the digital revolution, which means this excellent learning does not earn any recognised CPD points. More’s the pity.

It astounds me that Australian authorities are not supporting or leading this revolution in learning. The same can be said of the fact that practitioners are not allowed to share patient referrals and data via email as this is not approved as a secure method of patient information transfer, yet the centuries old post (which is arguably way less secure than email) is considered okay. Likewise ‘last century’ fax transmission is also an approved method of data transfer, which again is way less secure than email and also subject to loss as the documents or referral letters fade away in time.

Tailored Learning

Individuals have their own unique way of learning at maximum efficiency. Although rote learning and study suit some people well and they achieve high scores, it does not mean they can practically apply such knowledge. Hands-on learning via workshops, for example, is increasingly available as an option. This mode of learning can work well but there’s a wide variation in what’s offered – ranging from didactic lectures to immersive hands on performance of techniques. While some workshops offer live patient fitting of contact lenses and much can be gleaned, one never sees if the trial fit is a long-term success… but at least it does show the methodology.

In my experience of both receiving and providing, one on one mentoring is by far the best way to learn. I’ve been fortunate to receive wonderful mentoring in contact lenses from my contact lens pioneer father as well as numerous other colleagues. I’ve been fortunate to spend time watching top class ophthalmologists performing amazing surgery and I’ve had the chance to do some hands on examination and learn new techniques. I have also had the pleasure of training a few contact lens specialists, who all went on to become top class in the field. To my mind there’s no substitute for this style of learning.

Online CPD, podcasts and webinars also offer excellent ways to learn and allow for major savings in conference registration, travel and accommodation. mivision is now a leader in the provision of online CPD in Australasia and has some impressive statistics, proving the popularity of this method of learning.

No doubt we will see further evolution of learning opportunities in the coming years.

Tip of the Month

My wife Karen is a very happy wearer of Biofinity Multifocal soft lenses. She is currently maxed out on the highest add lenses. She prefers a ‘D lens’ in both eyes and finds they provide spectacle free vision for 85 to 90 per cent of her visual needs. Occasionally she finds the use of top-up near spectacles of benefit for very small print and use with digital devices. She’s an AOSEPT fan and has trouble-free wear all her waking hours, even in the most challenging circumstances…

As you may be aware, we’re currently spending much of our time on a ‘Big Lap’ of Australia, travelling and camping in our new custom built All Terrain Trakka Trakkadu VW Campervan. We love getting to know this massive, amazing country they call the ‘lucky country’. We feel the most at home since we left South Africa twenty-three years ago. The Outback and coastline reminds us very much of parts of South Africa, Botswana and Turkey.

We are often free camping in remote areas with a lack of facilities. Karen keeps her hands very clean with her favoured Pears soap. She also recently obtained a pair of mini silicone tipped tweezers, from a practice in Manly, which she uses to minimise handling of lenses, as her old B+L style pair were no longer ideal and much bigger. Although she does occasionally do a night of extended wear we did not want to risk a red eye or microbial keratitis when far away from expert care. Thus it means inserting and removing her lenses in campsite bathrooms – or in our camper van, which as it turns out, she prefers. The tip she wants to share is that instead of using a tiny, fiddly foldup mirror, she’s taken to using the camera of her iPhone. She rests it against her make-up bag, switches to the ‘selfie’ camera view and uses this to easily insert her lenses.

It’s a useful tip that I was rather impressed with and one you might wish to share with patients who love camping and travelling.