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Wednesday / April 17.
HomeminewsOptometry and Orthoptic Students Volunteer to Support Glaucoma Patients

Optometry and Orthoptic Students Volunteer to Support Glaucoma Patients

Glaucoma Australia has enlisted the voluntary support of final year optometry and orthoptist students from around Australia to help manage increasing numbers of people being referred to its support service.

The students are trained by orthoptist Sapna Nand, provided with scripts to use when speaking with patients over the telephone, and mentored to ensure they are equipped to provide appropriate advice and support.

Annie Gibbins, Chief Executive Officer of Glaucoma Australia, said volunteer students had quickly proven to be an effective way to upscale service provision.

“Late last year, we reached out to all the Australian Optometry and Orthoptist universities and asked for volunteers. We were overwhelmed by the response and began making use of students in December. We now have 20 students volunteering and aim to recruit an additional 30 in the coming months.

“Students initially speak over the phone with patients who have been diagnosed by an optometrist and are waiting to see an ophthalmologist – that’s the first stage of our referral response pathway and it’s a time when people have a lot of general questions about glaucoma and the impact of diagnosis. Our students also speak to patients in the fourth stage of our program, who are often elderly, do not have access to internet resources and require ongoing support.

“Once students have worked with us for a while, subject to their skills and availability, we engage them to speak to patients at stages two and three, when people often have more clinical enquiries about appointment and treatment adherence.”

Ashleigh Habkouk, a biomedical science student at the University of Notre Dame, Western Australia was one of the first to volunteer her services. “I love volunteering and I am a big believer in preventative health. Helping someone stay on top of their appointments may indirectly optimise a patient’s prognosis and enhance their treatment experience.”

Orthoptist Najm Ul Choudhry said, “It’s been very rewarding to know that such a simple call actually means a lot to patients and their families. I enjoy speaking with elderly patients who state they feel ‘ well taken care of’ by our calls.”

Patrick Chan, a 5th Year optometry student at Queensland University of Technology, said “the opportunity to do more for an organisation with a heart to support the greater community concerning an often overlooked vision-related issue was too perfect to pass up”.

Jingyi Chen, final year optometry student at Deakin University, said “I know that being diagnosed with glaucoma can be very hard and scary and love that I get the chance to ease some of the anxiety and provide support for patients”.

Ms Gibbins said volunteering with Glaucoma Australia offered opportunities for all participants. “Students are able to put the clinical skills they learn into practice and experience working with real patients; patients receive personal support from skilled, passionate individuals from a variety of language backgrounds; and Glaucoma Australia benefits from the resources we need to deliver our vital services at no cost.

“We also believe that having volunteered with Glaucoma Australia, these young eye health professionals will be more likely to spread the word about the invaluable services we provide and refer their own patients to us once qualified.”