Feature, Orthoptics Australia

Students will benefit from expanding services at La Trobe Eye Clinic

Now entering its third year, the diverse range of services provided by the La Trobe Eye Clinic gives orthoptic students the opportunity to assess and manage a variety of patients, writes clinic coordinator KYLIE GRAN.

The La Trobe Eye Clinic was established in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was formed as a student-led clinic overseen by experienced orthoptists to allow successful completion of clinical placements whilst density limits were in place in eye clinics throughout Victoria and there were restrictions on travel interstate and overseas.

The La Trobe Eye Clinic initially partnered with the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, that were experiencing growing wait lists due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A co-managed service where eligible children are referred to the clinic for intermediary or ongoing care was created. The relationship continues to benefit patients and their families.

Kylie Gran.

“Adults are often referred for diplopia, strabismus, and abnormal ocular movements, with underlying conditions.”

Since then, the clinic has created a relationship with local maternal and child health nurses. Maternal child health centres refer children most commonly for strabismus, ptosis, a failed vision screening, abnormal head posture, or where an underlying condition prevents a vision screening from being undertaken.

The clinic provides paediatric orthoptic eyecare by practitioners with extensive experience with children from newborns onwards. La Trobe also contributes to the continued education of maternal child health centres located in the north-eastern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Over 90% of maternal and child health nurses when recently surveyed reported that families referred to the clinic were always satisfied with the clinical care provided. Families, in particular, appreciate the professional service delivered, the low cost of the service and ease of access.

More recently, a multidisciplinary clinic has been established which includes optometrists. This clinic is focused on co-managing refractive error in children, myopia progression and other paediatric ocular conditions. It also provides an opportunity for optometrists to be involved in the clinical education of orthoptic students.

In addition to providing specific co-management and collaborative clinics, the La Trobe Eye Clinic receives referrals from general practitioners, ophthalmologists and optometrists, primarily for children with ocular motility dysfunction and for management of these disorders and amblyopia.

Adults are often referred for diplopia, strabismus, and abnormal ocular movements, with underlying conditions such as Graves ophthalmopathy, a neurogenic palsy or accommodative spasm.

With the diverse range of services provided by the La Trobe Eye Clinic, orthoptic students are given the opportunity to assess and manage a variety of patients. The clinic provides placements for orthoptic students throughout all years of the course, with final year consisting of an extended block placement. It offers an environment for students to observe, undertake a comprehensive clinical assessment and to consider their findings and apply evidence-based practice.

Patient appointments are structured to provide students with ample opportunity to practise their clinical skills and discuss cases with their fellow students and clinical educator. Through this approach the clinic helps students to consolidate their knowledge and put theory into practice. Motor and sensory disorders are often challenging subject areas for students, and hands-on experience is essential to their understanding and attainment of competencies in this sub-specialty and provides students with unique skill development that is vital for their careers, locally and internationally.

“Placement at the La Trobe Eye Clinic has been a great way to put theory into practice with real life cases. I am grateful for the opportunity to improve my clinical skills in an environment where student learning is in focus,” final year orthoptic student Ms Kali Evans said.

As the La Trobe Eye Clinic enters its third year of operation, the university aims to expand on current services and to further diversify the clinical experience for orthoptic students. Areas of growth will include low vision services, and stroke assessment and rehabilitation. Furthermore, beyond clinical placement, the clinic will offer greater opportunities for undergraduate and post-graduate clinical research.

Overall, the clinic aims to provide high quality, affordable orthoptic services to children and adults in the community and seeks to be a valuable collaborator with the Royal Children’s Hospital and external eyecare practitioners including ophthalmologists and optometrists.

The La Trobe Eye Clinic is based within the Health Sciences Clinic at La Trobe University in Bundoora.

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