Ensuring standards for the extended role of optometry

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Abstract

Background:

In optometry, as in other health professions, such as pharmacy and nursing, there has been an expansion in the role of the optometrist in primary eye care, taking on aspects of care such as prescribing, which was traditionally undertaken by general practitioners. In optometry, this extended role involves monitoring eye conditions that do not require treatment or monitoring in secondary care, roles that were traditionally referred on. However, any extended role requires educational support. The development of a national educational programme can prevent any duplication of effort and provide a system of disseminating support to practitioners, who often work in isolation.

Context:

The National Education Programme was developed and supported by the National Health Service (NHS) Education for Scotland (NES). This a national body responsible for supporting NHS services in Scotland, by developing and delivering education and training for those who work in NHS Scotland.

Innovation:

Optometrists were given educational support in three main stages: simulation of component skills; safe learning in a simulated health care context; and support for the transfer of those skills to practice, including the use of mentoring via e–mail. The evaluation of this three-stage process has been positive.

Implications:

To further develop any expanded role in health care practice, safe guidelines for practice are required. Simulation can provide support at the start of this process in setting standards. However, mentorship in the practice area, as reported in this study, was required to embed newly acquired skills.

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