Even though professional development is not a mandatory requirement for modern-day optical dispensers, there are several opportunities to upskill and set themselves apart, says Catherine Leetch.
Despite there being no formal requirement in Australia for dispensers to attain and maintain CPD points, unlike our optometrists, it is in our own and our patients’ best interest to stay on top of our personal and professional development and continue with a student outlook of always learning.
“Job seekers looking for a new opportunity would be looked on favourably by employers if they are proactive in their professional development.”
There are numerous reasons why we should – and ways in which we can – continue with our development even once we are formally qualified and regardless of our varying lengths of service. The key objective of CPD is to ensure that our skills and knowledge are always up-to-date in a constantly developing industry.
Notably, the new industry body, Optical Dispensers Australia (ODA) of which I am an advisory board member, is bridging this gap between educational content and dispensers seeking professional development by hosting regular webinars and occasional in-person events. For ODA members, a currency certificate will be distributed to those that have completed 10 CPD points each calendar year. On top of the educational benefits of the program, the currency certificate is a great addition to present to a future or current employer to show relevancy and up to date knowledge in the industry.
Where CPD counts
One important reason why CPD is crucial for optical dispensers is so that we can stay on top of advances in technologies and research in the industry. No two practices offer the same services and to be able to answer our patients’ questions about a wide range of possible care and treatment options would be beneficial, ensuring we are providing the best and most accurate information available. For example, many patients will look for advice and information on dry eye treatments. Even if your practice does not offer dedicated dry eye clinics or specialist treatments such as IPL, it would reflect positively on your skills and your practice if you were able to discuss confidently with your patients and direct them appropriately.
CPD is also very important for dispensers when it comes to broadening knowledge of lens advances and new approaches to dispensing. Depending on the type of practice that you work in, your exposure to the vast range of options may be limited to the core options that your practice offers.
Some practices will order from numerous lens suppliers based on their customer needs or preferences, while others will have a more limited catalogue they pull from, generally of the most common lens types more broadly used. This can lead to knowledge gaps around what is available in the industry vs what is available in said practice.
You will be able to find a range of readily available information on lens styles available from the various suppliers and by looking at ODA’s CPD webinar calendar for upcoming online presentations.
CPD events and opportunities can come in many different formats, whether it be through trade shows, webinars, lens supplier trainings, frame suppliers’ information events and conferences. All of these are great opportunities for dispensers to network with peers and to expand professional relationships. It would also be reasonable to assume that job seekers looking for a new opportunity would be looked on favourably by employers if they are proactive in their professional development. As your career progresses, the work you have put into expanding your network may also broaden your access or visibility to future job opportunities.
CPD can also help to build confidence for an optical dispenser. As technical skills and knowledge develop, we become much more comfortable in our interactions with our patients and confident in our abilities to provide them with an appliance that will fulfil their optical need. Our now expanded network means we have peers that we can look to for support, advice or suggestions in relation to those tricky dispenses and likewise provide that support in return.
In summary, though the types of CPD are varied i.e. structured or self-directed, the benefits for optical dispensers ourselves and, in turn, our patients cannot be underestimated. The development of new skills and knowledge ensures that we are providing the best possible care for our patients and staying up to date on trends and advances in our industry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Leetch is a qualified optical dispenser and practice manager at Eyescan in Melbourne. She is also an Advisory Board Member for Optical Dispensers Australia.