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Patrick Hutchens


Optometrists across Australia are investing in their practices and improving the skills of their employees by enrolling staff in optical dispensing courses.

A course run nationwide by RMIT University has won the approval of practice owners.

Leigh Robinson, course co-ordinator of the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing at RMIT, says the pertinent difference between its course and others offered around Australia is that it supports students by visiting them in the practices.

‘We assess them at the same time as offering advice and testing their learning,’ he said.

Mr Robinson says they try to emphasise the point to optometric practice owners, optometrists and dispensing practice owners that trained people will save them money in the long term by being able to do things correctly.

‘When there is a problem with a patient, there’s nothing worse than having staff who don’t know what to do. Subsequently, they book dissatisfied patients into the optometric chair,’ he said.

Shaun Breakspear, of Eyefix Optometrist in Manly, Queensland and Lisa Bakker, at Eyes of Narangba, are optometrists and practice owners. Each has enrolled a staff member in the 18-month Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing.

Nicole had been working in a dispensing role for Mr Breakspear for about a year before he enrolled her in the RMIT course.

‘This was to give her that certification and increase her skills so that she is more confident in dispensing,’ Mr Breakspear said.

‘It’s given her a personal goal to strive towards. At the same time, her skills with regards to practice management duties as well as dispensing have increased. Instead of just being told to sell a particular product, she now knows why we recommend a particular product,’ he said.

Lisa Bakker also endorses the program at RMIT, after enrolling one of her more recently employed staff members in the course.

‘Matt has been able to do just so much more around the practice. We’ve been able to delegate more work to him and when we’ve had tricky prescriptions, he’s been able to take over with confidence,’ she said.

Matt has shared the knowledge and skills he learned through the course with other staff members at the practice. ‘His enthusiasm has been very contagious,’ Ms Bakker said.

She says Matt was a little daunted when she first signed him up for the course, particularly with the optics component involving mathematics.

‘Between the support we gave him here and the RMIT staff, he really didn’t have any hassles,’ she said.

‘Every time we go to conferences now, particularly the ProVision ones, he runs into so many people and feels part of a bigger community, which has been really encouraging for him, to see it as a career, rather than a job.’

Ms Bakker plans to enrol another staff member in the RMIT course in the next 12 months.

The RMIT program consists of 14 units that cover basic light theory, lenses and frames, human anatomy, interpersonal communication, merchandising, retailing and technical subjects related to the optical industry.

For information on the RMIT optical dispensing course email Avril Estibeiro at

Visit the SA Blue Sky website for information on the Dispensers Program.

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