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No CPD? No excuses!

Once you’ve found employment at an optometry practice and undertaken a Certificate IV it’s mission accomplished. Right? Wrong!

Rest on your laurels and it won’t be long until you’re lagging behind your colleagues. This applies equally to both new graduates and optical dispensers with many years of experience. Just about all fields of science are progressing at a rapid pace, and this is no different in optics – in particular lens advancements, from optimised single vision to front and back surface progressive lenses.

Continuing professional development (CPD) allows both new graduates and accomplished optical dispensers to keep up with the theories and practical approaches that meet today’s needs.

The fact that dispensing in Australia has no formal CPD system has been well documented. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for dispensers.

A recent surge in the number of professional development options available to us means there is now almost no excuse for dispensers. Many of the state’s optometry conferences, such as Australian Vision Convention, host dispenser specific offerings, while privately run touring roadshows and CPD evenings are held nationwide at various times throughout the year.

"CPD is a key element in the maintenance of any individual optical dispenser’s competence"

The Victorian chapter of the Australian Dispensing Opticians Association (ADOA) also hosts education and training seminars for its members with great success – whether it be learning about the process of making frames, or hearing from leaders in the optical industry, it all helps.

All of this is not to say we don’t want or need to establish a formal CPD program for dispensers, but until that eventuates we must make the most of what’s available.

After all, best practice eyecare only happens when every staff member is confident in the knowledge that they can handle all customer enquiries professionally; a confidence that comes from continuous improvement.

Most importantly, the ultimate outcome of continuing professional development is that it is a safeguard. Not just for us, but for the public, our employer, and the profession itself. For many years we have seen Optometry Australia, RANZCO and other relevant boards and associations educating and maintaining standards for their profession, isn’t it about time optical dispensers took our profession seriously and did the same?

This movement must start somewhere and for it to be successful, it must have grassroots support.

Face A Face

We already have an example of what can be achieved. As I previously mentioned, for years ADOA (Vic) has set out improve its members’ professional capabilities in an effort to bring optical dispensing into line with other professional bodies.

ADOA is charged with ensuring that optical dispensers are competent and fit to practise when they apply for registration and on an ongoing basis. To facilitate this, it has established its own CPD schedule.

Under the schedule, every member is required to present evidence to the ADOA board that they are competent in the following aspects of practice: Technical/clinical competence; ethical and cultural competence; and marketing competence.

As CPD is a key element in the maintenance of any individual optical dispenser’s competence, the board has set a certification program that requires optical dispensers to maintain at least 20 CPD credits every two years.

Once all required CPD points are obtained, ADOA issues a plaque that can be displayed at the member’s practice, notifying the public that the individual optical dispenser has been accredited and is also a member of the International Opticians Association.

Obviously this program isn’t available throughout Australia, but it demonstrates what can be done and the direction we should head in. With so many qualified and knowledgeable heads in the industry, surely we can get together and give optical dispensing the recognition it deserves.

The establishment of a nationwide CPD program would be a massive effort that requires cooperation and coordination at a level that does not appear possible in the near future. Until then, I hope to see many more optical dispensers at the next CPD event.

Name: Mandeep Paul
Qualifications: Certificate IV
Business: Styleyes
Position: Optical dispenser
Location: Hampton, Victoria
Years in the profession: 16


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