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HomemioptometryKeeping an Eye on Occupational Injury

Keeping an Eye on Occupational Injury

Challenged to reflect on areas in which we can improve, Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) Chief Executive Officer Ilsa Hampton has launched a project to reduce workplace injuries.

Whenever one of OV/SA’s projects comes to a close, I like to take some time to reflect. Earlier in the year our regional series, ‘Myths, Misconceptions, and Mistakes in Optometry’, went from strength to strength with more than a dozen face-to-face events across Victoria and South Australia.

up to two-thirds of eye care professionals suffer from musculoskeletal pain, with the number rising as high as 76% in female optometrists

Our wonderful speaker Ken Thomas, a clinical instructor and lecturer at the University of Melbourne with over 20 years’ experience, delighted optometrists with his wit and challenged traditional thinking with his engaging presentation. In these talks, Ken also touched on an important topic: the importance of self-evaluation and recognizing areas in which we can improve, whether it be as individuals or as a wider profession.

It comes as no surprise to many of us that optometry can be demanding. Between the intellectual rigour of professional practise and the emotional energy optometrists give each day to provide the best standard of care for patients, certain aspects of practice life can be deemed lower priority and fall by the wayside.

OV/SA regularly visits and consults with members on a wide variety of issues, and one topic that members repeatedly raise is long-term physical injuries caused by working in an optometry practice. A recent study claims that up to two-thirds of eye care professionals suffer from musculoskeletal pain, with the number rising to as high as 76% in female optometrists.1

This concern was echoed at a meeting of the OV/SA State Advisory Committee, when one of our committee members mentioned that they had experienced physical pain associated with practising optometry.

When I asked other members about this in various settings, not only did they agree it was an issue, but many also thought they were alone in suffering an occupational injury, or, most distressingly, that it was simply a part of the job they must endure.

This sentiment was again reflected at a recent retired optometrists’ lunch, in which one attendee mentioned that towards the end of her career she required fortnightly visits to the physiotherapist merely to make practice work tolerable.

It is clear that this issue must be addressed.

Further discussions between OV/SA and other allied health peak bodies suggest that optometrists are not alone in suffering from injuries associated with clinical work; professions that require repetitive physical activity such as dentistry are also at risk of occupational injury. Our initial explorations suggest conditions that can lead to injury involve many variables; an early culprit for many may be equipment design. For example, equipment designed for use by males may require female optometrists to overextend their arms, thus increasing their chance of short- and long-term injury over time, which may contribute to a higher reported incidence of pain.

The OV/SA Board has committed to supporting an occupational injury project this coming financial year, and we have been in preliminary discussions with Flinders, Melbourne, and Deakin Universities about potential collaboration. We anticipate that a large part of any initiative to address these issues will come down to education and awareness. This may include providing information about the possibilities of occupational injury to students to help mitigate risks and ensure a long and sustainable professional life.

While we expect the project will involve a mixture of research into occupational injuries and educational content for optometry students, we are also committed to helping practising members look after themselves by investigating steps to prevent injury. We expect this collaboration will also involve a discussion about optometry equipment, particularly how adjustable it is and what can be done to mitigate any strain involved with repeated use.

This year is another busy one for OV/SA and, as always, we remain focussed on supporting our members in meaningful ways on the ground. O=MEGA/World Congress of Optometry takes place next month, and I look forward to connecting with the broader eye health community in Melbourne at this event.

With so much going on, it’s doubly important to look after our physical health. I look forward to developing this new project and making a real difference in the lives of our members, which in turn will help foster a healthy, sustainable profession.

Ilsa Hampton is the Chief Executive Officer of Optometry Victoria South Australia.

1. Al Taisan, A., Al Qurainees, A. E., AL Sowayigh, O. M., et al., Musculoskeletal Pain Among Eye Care Professionals. Cureus 15(5): e39403. doi:10.7759/cureus.39403