London 9 February 2015: In January, THE VISION CARE INSTITUTE® gathered esteemed delegates from the UK’s professional bodies and optometry universities to discuss their thoughts on ‘Professionalism and Professional Development in Optometry’. 

THE VISION CARE INSTITUTE® used this as a platform to launch a new innovative educational initiative: ‘Success Through Education Programme’ (STEP) designed to support Optometry students as they transition through to becoming newly qualified optometrists.

The engaging forum provided a platform for the professional bodies to present their thoughts and activities around this important topic; including: Linda Ford, Head of Education Standards from the General Optical Council; Wendy Steel, Commercial Director and Vicky Vine, Communication Director from the Association of Optometrists; Cheryl Donnelly, CEO and Christine Purslow from BCLA;  Alan Tinger, Board Director from the Federation of Ophthalmic & Dispensing Opticians and Jackie Martin, Director of Education and Catherine Bithell, Director Member Services & Communications at the College of Optometrists.

 “It was interesting to hear such a wide range of perspectives on professionalism at the event. The findings from the event will be particularly valuable as we consider professionalism as part of our ongoing strategic standards review this year.” remarked Linda Ford, General Optical Council.

Jackie Martin, Director of Education for the College of Optometrists, commented: “To have all the main stakeholders gathered in one place and hear of everyone’s plans for developing the profession was both incredibly useful and rare. It made tangible all the great things that are already happening across the sector and highlighted where we all should concentrate our efforts in the future.”  

They were also joined by staff and students from the majority of the UK’s leading optometry university departments, including: Anglia, Aston, Bradford, Cardiff, City, Glasgow and Plymouth. A mixture of presentations from the professional bodies showcasing their initiatives in this area of development and student testimonials revealing where they felt they needed support, firmly established the need for supporting Eye Care Professionals earlier in their career.

Sheetal Patel, Manager, THE VISION CARE INSTITUTE® commented “We were delighted to bring the key stakeholders together and see that they are broadly aligned in the need to support the development of professionalism that reflects the roles and responsibilities of the modern day optometrist in contemporary practice. It was particularly pleasing that there was so much support for our STEP initiative and the value it is sure to provide to the optometric profession and its future.”

Having launched on January 9th 2015, STEP will offer support to optometry students, from their penultimate year at university through to when they become newly qualified graduates, with a tailored blended learning programme, including invaluable hands-on educational training at THE VISION CARE INSTITUTE®.  

“There will be an emphasis on supporting skills, knowledge and competence in the area of contact lens practice, which has been highlighted as an area where there is a significant shortfall. STEP will also provide a platform for us to interact with the students enrolled on the programme first hand, allowing our knowledgeable faculty to support them in shaping, not only their education, but also their careers.” explained Sheetal.

In its first year the program is looking to enroll 300 students (approximately 45% of the number of optometry graduates), “which we are on target to achieve” remarked Sheetal.