Feature, Soapbox

Bringing dispensing out of the Twilight Zone

Is it me or does it feel like ophthalmic dispensing in Australia has been in a ‘Twilight Zone’ for the last decade? This once great and respected profession seems to have allowed itself to become increasingly marginalised. Successive state deregulations were certainly a blow, but the measure of any profession is how it responds to adversity.

However, just like the aforementioned TV show, nothing is as it first appears. Beneath the apparent apathy one often encounters a highly skilled, knowledgeable and passionate cohort committed to ensuring patients and customers get the very best visual comfort and clarity from their corrective eyewear.

Even more encouragingly, the younger and newer entrants to our profession demonstrate a real thirst for knowledge and a desire to build a career in this wonderful industry.

All of this is taking place at a time of rapid change. After a 35-year career I can honestly not recall a time as dynamic as the one we find ourselves in right now.

People’s eyes have never had to work as hard as they do today. We see digital screens on our commute to work, in our offices, shopping centres and, of course, in our homes. Coupled with an increasing and ageing population, our services have never been more in demand.

Our optometrist colleagues spend years honing the skills needed to craft the exact prescriptions necessary to deliver the optimal visual outcomes. But, as every good dispenser knows, the resulting prescription is not worth the paper it’s written on if it is not translated into high quality spectacles that fit well and have the right lenses correctly aligned.

Recently we have seen a rejuvenation of Certificate IV training through the many excellent providers who constantly challenge themselves to deliver better, more effective outcomes for their students.

One of our core beliefs at Specsavers is that we have a responsibility to deliver the best outcomes for our customers. Equally, we believe that we can only achieve this if we enable each and every one of our team members to “be the best they can be” every day.

Our commitments to learning and development runs deep, having been built on the seeds planted by our founders 35 years ago. We are proud to have enabled over 1,200 individuals across our Australian and New Zealand store network since 2012 to start their optical career journey through the acquisition of their Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing.

We also believe that the changing nature of our industry requires optical dispensers to stay absolutely up to date with new technology, products and services to continue to be able to deliver the most optimal solutions for customers.

Therefore, we believe the Certificate IV should be regarded as a minimum. The principle of lifelong learning and the Kaizen approach to continuous improvement needs to sit at the core of everything we do.

We have tried to do our bit through the Specsavers Dispensing Conferences by bringing the very best researchers and industry experts to present the latest information to all Australian dispensers. Turnout over the first three years has steadily increased, proving the core of our profession has a real desire to learn.

Our proactive support of our UK colleagues from the Association of British Dispensing Opticians is helping to deliver the beginnings of an FBDO OS qualification for dispensers who really want to stretch themselves.

Personally, I believe – as do many of my colleagues – that there are plenty of things to be positive about. The real question is how can we, as qualified optical dispensers and dispensing opticians, embrace the changes and ensure we continue to play a relevant role in the delivery of primary eyecare services?

It was really encouraging to attend the open forum held at O=MEGA19 in July and hear the sheer amount of goodwill that exists from all quarters of the industry. It’s is equally encouraging to see a reformed and rejuvenated Australian Dispensing Opticians Association stepping up and facing the need to become a truly national representative organisation with a strong voice.

The real challenge for all of us, as passionate and caring optical professionals, is to step out of the twilight zone and into the spotlight. To challenge ourselves to be the best we can be. To do the best we can do, for each and every one of our customers, every day. We must strive for excellence in everything we to deliver the very best outcomes for our customers.


Name: Steve O’Leary

Workplace: Specsavers Australia and New Zealand

Position: Director of Product and Dispensing Advancement

Years in profession: 35

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