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Competency standards include therapeutics

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Optometrists Association has adopted updated entry-level competency standards for Australian optometrists.

They include expansion of competencies regarding cultural sensitivity, place increased emphasis on evidence-based practice and new competencies on participating in public health programs, and suggest that entry-level optometrists should be competent to use auto-injectors in case of anaphylaxis.

Therapeutic competency standards are no longer differentiated but are incorporated in entry-level standards.

Optometrists Association is a world leader in these standards, which it developed initially in 1993 and revised on three occasions, most recently in 2008.

National policy manager Skye Cappuccio said the update was necessary to incorporate therapeutic standards. ‘We were pleased that the review and consultation showed that the competencies as they stood remained largely relevant and aligned with current and emergent scope of practice,’ she said.

‘The review enabled adaptions, minor additions and changes to be made to reflect new standards of good practice. This is most notable in relation to evidence-based practice and culturally sensitive care.

‘Competency standards will ensure future graduates are well-equipped to practise in accord with best practice and meet community eye-care needs, but we are also confident that most therapeutically qualified optometrists benchmarking themselves against the standards would be confident they could address most competencies.’

Revision of existing standards was overseen by a steering committee led by association standards and research adviser Dr Patricia Kiely.

There was broad consultation including four workshops and invitations to association members, employers, the Optometry Board of Australia and the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand to make submissions about content.

The standards cover patient history, diagnosis, recording of clinical data, patient examination, patient management and professional responsibilities.

Dr Kiely said the most significant alteration was that therapeutic competency standards were no longer differentiated as they had been incorporated in entry-level standards. Previously, they were differentiated in any section of the standards in which they appeared.

‘New material includes expansion of competencies regarding cultural sensitivity and increased emphasis on evidence-based practice,’ Dr Kiely said. ‘There is also a new element of competency about ability to participate in general public health programs, through assisting other health practitioners to provide screening and programs.

‘Optometrists taking part in these programs should be able to provide support and training for nurses and others involved in vision screening on the validity and conduct of standardised screening tests for amblyopia. They should also be able to educate the community about the value of screening for retinopathy as part of co-operative care of diabetic patients.’

Another addition suggests optometrists should have the ability to use auto-injectors, such as EpiPens, for the emergency treatment of anaphylaxis. ‘There could be a perception in the public that an optometrist as a health-care professional should know how to use auto-injectors.’

The area covering recording of clinical data has been renamed to reflect that it includes not only clinical data but also other information such as Medicare data.

Previous standards comprised six units of competency but in the new version the two units on diagnosis and patient management have been combined in a single unit entitled Diagnosis and management.

The revised standards will be published in Clinical and Experimental Optometry this year.

‘We are writing to the Optometry Board of Australia and the Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand to advise them that the association has adopted a new set of standards as they have used previous versions,’ Dr Kiely said.



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