Lining up for practice: the first cohort of Deakin University optometry students before their final examinations Photo: Deakin University
By Helen Carter
Virtually all of the members of Deakin University’s first cohort of optometry students who passed their final examinations have secured jobs in the optometry field. While most will be working in optometric practices, some have jobs in ophthalmology practices or academia.
Of the 85 students who enrolled in the course in its first year, 69 sat for the final examinations on 9 June. The course is Australia’s first accelerated optometry course, offering the combined Bachelor of Vision Science/Master of Optometry in three and a half years.
Head of clinical partnerships, Deakin Optometry, Associate Professor Craig Woods, said the majority of the 69 had completed the program and could successfully move towards registration.
‘We have one or two who need remediation and support before they can progress,’ he said.
‘We do not directly monitor who has jobs and who does not; however, our conversations with the student group suggest all have jobs although two or three have specific jobs in mind and are waiting on interviews.’
Professor Woods said that the graduates would be settling far and wide from Perth to Sydney, many had chosen rural positions and some had employment in practices where they had undertaken their clinical placement.
He said Deakin had not monitored whether most would be working in corporate or independent practices.
One of the graduates, Marc Eskander, surveyed his fellow students. He said that although he had not received a 100 per cent response rate, he knew that about 25 per cent would be practising in rural areas.
Chair in Vision Science, optometry course director and associate head of the School of Medicine, Professor Alex Gentle, said that both members of staff and students had been on a journey together from the program development to the graduation of the first cohort. ‘It is very exciting and very satisfying,’ he said.
Optometry Council of Australia and New Zealand executive officer Sian Lewis confirmed that the Deakin optometry course had been accredited with conditions. She said Deakin had submitted a final report to OCANZ in June after examination results were verified, which was being considered by OCANZ and would go to the Optometry Board of Australia.
The graduation ceremony will be held on 6 October.
Optometry Victoria CEO Pete Haydon and director Rowan Prendergast joined Optometry Australia professional services manager Luke Arundel in June, to meet the Deakin students and welcome them to the workforce.
‘It was great for us to meet all of the students. More than 60 are graduating and they’re fanning out across the country to start their careers,’ Mr Haydon said.
‘Luke provided them with a lot of information about getting registered, Medicare and the PBS, while Rowan gave a really strong presentation about the power of Optometry Australia membership, and the work that the organisation is doing driving the profession forward.
‘I wish all of the Deakin students well in the first phase of their careers and I am looking forward to representing them as they start out.’
Here’s what they say about the course
Working with ophthalmologist
‘I have met some amazing teachers and we have had great facilities. It was very nice having a new building,’ Laura said.
‘Clinical placement was quite a change but great overall as I felt like I was being a real optometrist. I found clinical placement was what you make it so you have to be really motivated to make it worthwhile as there is a lot of self-learning.’
Ms Carson says it was difficult doing the accelerated course but the time went fast. ‘It was very tough at times, especially in summer when the beach was so close.
‘I am glad I did it in such a way. I will have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in three and a half years, which is pretty amazing,’ she said.
‘I am very excited to enter the workforce. It is a unique time in optometry where we have a lot to look forward to in terms of therapeutics and billing.
‘I am going to work with an ophthalmologist and have a heavy clinical experience in my first few years. It will be interesting [to see] how that goes and if the profession evolves into having [more] optometrists working with ophthalmology in such a way.’
Working in independent practice
The highlight for Jacqui was a clinical placement she completed at an independent Melbourne practice, Gutteridge, Douglas and Wells Optometrists, where she will be working.
‘The clinical placement was fantastic for our professional development because we received one-on-one tuition from our supervisors over the six months, which meant continuity in our learning,’ she said.
‘Completing a placement for this extended period enabled us to follow through with patients, which not only gave us the opportunity to see patients benefit from our treatment but also enabled us to learn.’
Ms Kirkman sees Deakin’s trimester system as ‘a huge advantage’ and the sole reason she chose to study at Deakin over any other optometry course.
‘For students such as myself who come from a low socio-economic background, the course’s short duration is of immense benefit because it has meant that I am able to enter the workforce years earlier than if I had studied a traditional optometry degree,’ she said.
‘This means I will be able to begin earning money to support myself and my family earlier and I have a substantially lower HECS debt.
‘At times it was difficult to fit general life and family commitments around study but we all learned to cope with this and it is perhaps more realistic of life in the workforce.’
Working with Specsavers
‘The combination of teaching methods including problem and team-based learning worked well together,’ Brooke said. ‘We were very lucky with regards to facilities and equipment available to us. We had a brand new building and a great clinical skills lab to practise in.
‘I believe clinical placement was the best way to transition from university life to work life. It helped me become much more work-ready.
‘The trimester system worked well. I didn’t see the point of having four months off each year. I liked the idea of doing essentially five years of study in three and a half years. The lack of holidays didn’t bother me too much,’ Ms Machin said.
‘I’m excited about joining the Australian optometric workforce. With the advances in technology, we are able to provide superior patient care.’
Brooke will be working at three stores in Geelong and Colac.