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Sunday / July 14.
HomemioptometryTake Note: The Key to Protecting Yourself

Take Note: The Key to Protecting Yourself

Representing members at disciplinary hearings is an important, albeit infrequent, service provided by optometry associations to their members. Andrew McKinnon explains that the frequency of complaints increases in times of financial stress.

Not sure if it’s the direction of the wind or alignment of the planets, but I have started the year assisting two members, in two weeks, with disciplinary hearings with their employers. I don’t think I had any at all in the year prior to that.

This reflects a market under stress. Whenever we see the general financial situation tighten, complaints increase exponentially. Often these complaints are without foundation, or marginal – but they put the subject optometrist under a lot of personal pressure.

There is no guaranteed way to avoid having a complaint made against you, but with everything, good records (or personal notes) are the key to effectively dealing with one.

We’re all familiar with good clinical records, but do you also keep notes of potentially important incidents that occur in the workplace?

Let’s say there are words exchanged between yourself and another member of staff over, maybe, a handover. It might seem small at the time, but it is important that you make a brief note of what happened from your perspective and make it close to the time, not weeks later. It will almost certainly amount to nothing, but if something does blow up, you’ve got some notes to fall back on, rather than trying to remember something from weeks before.

I mentioned markets under stress, and this doesn’t just apply to the employment environment. Patients are far more likely to complain now than they would be if interest rates were low, and everyone had spare cash in their pockets.

Again, while good records are key here, so is good patient communication. When we talk to the regulators, we hear that probably 90% of complaints arise because a patient feels that they didn’t understand what was being proposed or that they didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision. Once a complaint is raised, the regulators look at a whole range of factors and very often find deficient records and other points of concern.

So, the message is clear; keep good records and take the time to really communicate with your patients. It may seem like an imposition at the time, but the heartache it will save you is immeasurable.

THE 2023 CALENDAR

So, let’s look ahead. What’s coming in 2023?

Locally, we have Super Sunday coming on 21 May, as well as a host of special interest webcasts and podcasts throughout the year.

In the second half of 2023, our Victorian colleagues are hosting the World Congress of Optometry from 8–10 September in Melbourne. Large international congresses of this nature don’t come to Australia often, so please mark it in your diaries.

And speaking of diaries, the NSW/ACT Ski Conference is back in 2023 at Thredbo from 18–20 August. To register an interest, please email [email protected] and we’ll make sure we keep you informed.

And of course, by the time this edition reaches you, the state election in NSW will have been run and won. Optometry had a few issues that we raised with the candidate parties, but none more pressing than the appalling state of public eye care services in south-western Sydney.

For those of you who are lucky enough not to need to refer a patient into the public system in that area, you’ll probably be shocked to learn that if you’re an optometrist you actually can’t refer – you’re barred from doing so.

The only people who can refer for public eye care services in south-western Sydney are ophthalmologists. So, if you need to see a public ophthalmologist, you have to pay to see a private ophthalmologist to ask them to then refer you on! Or you could clog up the outpatient services and try to get in that way. In either event, Monty Python wouldn’t write this stuff – it would be too silly.

So, in closing, 2023 is going to be a great year – yes, it will be! The whole Optometry NSW/ACT team wishes all of you all the best and we look forward to working with you throughout the year!

Andrew McKinnon is the CEO of Optometry NSW ACT.

We’re all familiar with good clinical records, but do you also keep notes of potentially important incidents that occur in the workplace?