Feature, Orthoptics Australia

The year ahead for Orthoptics Australia

As 2021 dawns, Orthoptics Australia has plans to reinstate face-to-face meetings, embed on-demand content and establish an early career mentor program. President JANE SCHULLER maps the year ahead.

In 2020 after the World Health Organisation officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, many businesses were forced to shelve projects and re-evaluate their strategic plans.

Orthoptics Australia (OA) was no exception as business plans were upended and our focus was redirected to support members through the crisis and the majority of our continuing professional development programs were converted to virtual events.

Jane Schuller.

The economic forecasts for 2021 indicate modest growth and recovery for businesses and provides some reassurance for us to develop a positive strategic approach for the year ahead. A key focus is always to evaluate our value proposition for members and continue to enhance our programs.

Through OA’s annual member satisfaction surveys, we continually seek to understand the perceptions and engagement of members in OA’s initiatives and programs. The results inform strategic planning and decisions to introduce new benefits or reposition others.

As a result of feedback in the 2018 and 2019 surveys, several programs and initiatives were introduced. We partnered with Insurance House to offer industry-leading professional indemnity insurance coverage for members. We also delivered more continuing professional development content through OA’s online learning management system ‘OAOE’ and established three special interest groups to increase opportunities for member engagement in specialist areas.

A recurring theme in the feedback is that early career orthoptists want more support and opportunities to exchange skills and knowledge through mentoring and networking. This year OA has committed to developing a formal mentoring program to support early career orthoptists to have a better understanding of the industry, the skills needed to succeed, the careers available and opportunities to further develop their ‘soft skills’.

We have a large pool of talented mentors across most areas of eye health care, from those in research or academia to others in policy and advocacy or industry. This is a great opportunity for more experienced orthoptists to give back and foster the next generation of orthoptists. It’s a win-win for all involved.

It’s important that we get the design right from the start, as we know many mentoring programs start well but don’t always deliver. It’s an exciting initiative, and we look forward to sharing our progress.

In addition to the mentoring program, the continuing education committee is tasked with developing a number of upskill packages using the new online learning management platform. The content will be high-quality, interactive learning packages in key areas that align with other initiatives.

Promoting and supporting evidence- based research remains a core strategic objective for OA. Last year, OA redesigned the Australian Orthoptic Journal (AOJ) with a modern look and better functionality with an improved search-enabled function. The most recent website analytics show the open access journal has good reach and engagement. In 2020, the editors set some short and longer- term goals for the AOJ and have plans for 2021 to expand the reach and impact to further reflect the history and quality of publication.

With the success of the virtual 2020 Victorian orthoptic continuing education seminar series, the 2021 series will continue virtually to enable greater access for members with the additional benefit of the content being available on-demand all year for new graduates and members. The longer-term goal is to convert this into a national initiative to draw on the expertise of member orthoptists across the country.

Despite the benefits of virtual learning, many of us are looking forward to returning to face-to-face continuing professional development meetings.

In 2020, the Victorian July Scientific Meeting and the NSW Continuing Education Weekend were both postponed due to COVID-19 and we’re excited to finally be able to gather together safely. It’s a perfect opportunity for members to re-connect with colleagues, as well as benefit from an excellent scientific program.

OA’s showcase event is the annual scientific conference. This year promises to be no exception with the meeting scheduled for 20-22 November at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The premier event will bring together delegates from across Australia to share best practice, hear the latest research and provide valuable opportunities to network.

As we begin 2021, we look forward to a positive year ahead and a bright future for OA.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jane Schuller is the president of Orthoptics Australia. She currently works at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and a number of private ophthalmology clinics.

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