The lead author of a study examining the demographics and distribution of new entrants to the Australian optometry workforce is surprised that one in 10 come from New Zealand, with almost a third of them launching their career in South Australia.
In their analysis of Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) data, Ms Jane Duffy, senior lecturer in optometry at Deakin University, and her colleagues also found that graduates of Australian universities tended to commence practice in the state they trained, while 42% of overseas‐trained optometrists commenced practice in Western Australia.
According to the study, published in Clinical and Experimental Optometry this month, the number of registered optometrists in Australia has increased by 30.1% during the past decade, a rate that is greater than the population growth of the country (12.1%).
This has prompted concerns about the size of the optometry workforce in the context of increasing numbers of graduating optometrists, however leading organisations within the sector disagree on the issue of workforce supply.
The study reviewed new entrants to the profession with regard to their qualification, whether they were qualified for therapeutic practice and their initial practice location from 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2018. During the eight-year period, 1,680 optometrists joined the profession, with 80% from an Australian program.
In total, 11% were from the New Zealand program with the balance from overseas programs (7%) or there being insufficient information to identify the optometry qualification (2%).
“The relatively large proportion of New Zealand graduates was surprising to me; also unexpected was that about 30% of them commenced practice in South Australia,” Duffy, a past member of the Optometry Board of Australia, said.
“It was also interesting that, consistent with a study by Kiely et al using 2005 data, graduates of the Australian programs tend to commence work in the state that they undertook their optometry training.”
In other findings, the study stated the increased number of optometrists entering the Australian workforce had coincided with the establishment of newer optometry programs, with the majority commencing practice in major cities.
New entrants to the optometry profession could also be generalised as graduates of an Australian optometry program, female, aged in their early‐mid 20s and qualified for therapeutic practice.