Original Research

The perspective of optometry students of the Phelophepa train regarding its role in developing experiential skills

R. Hansraj
African Vision and Eye Health | South African Optometrist: Vol 68, No 2 | a153 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v68i2.153 | © 2009 R. Hansraj | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 December 2009 | Published: 13 December 2009

About the author(s)

R. Hansraj, BOptom (UDW) MOptom (UDW) PhD (UKZN), South Africa

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Purpose: The optometry degree programme in South Africa currently includes a combination of both theoretical and clinical modules.  The optometric skills required by graduates are often achieved by students’ involvement in clinical training at both in-house clinics, as well as external clinics.   One of the external clinic sites for all institutions in South Africa currently offering the Optometry degree is
the Phelophepa Health Care train.  This study set out to investigate, from a student’s perspective, the effectiveness of experiential learning at this clinical site.

Setting: The study was carried out aboard the Ph-
elophepa Health Care train.

Method:  A questionnaire survey was completed by a saturated sample of 177 optometry students having completed at least a two week clinical rotation aboard Phelophepa.  The sample comprised students from all four optometry programmes in South Africa, as well as, exchange optometry students from the University of New South Wales and Melbourne University.  The questionnaire was divided into five sections that dealt with demographics, equipment and facilities, profile of refractive and pathologycases encountered, additional skills and general perceptions. The self-administered questionnaire was in English and Afrikaans, as these are the twolanguage mediums in which optometric education,in South Africa, is currently delivered.

Results: A response rate of 57% was obtained.  Theequipment and facilities aboard Phelophepa were found to be adequate.  Just over half of all the respondents had consulted with over 50 patients on
Phelophepa during their two week rotation.  Communication was not reported as being a barrier to consulting with patients on Phelophepa.  Respondents reported the clinical cases as being mainly interesting and ‘good learning’ cases.  The majority
of respondents (71%) felt that the general clinical skills they obtained on Phelophepa were better than those developed in their institutional clinics.  Not all refractions and ophthalmoscopy on patients aresupervised aboard Phelophepa.  There appears to
be a need for the delivery of specialized optometry skills like binocular vision, paediatric vision, low vision and diagnostic techniques on Phelophepa.   All the respondents agreed that Phelophepa was a useful learning site, and 99% agreed that optometry departments should continue using it as an external
clinic site.

Conclusion:  Despite certain shortcomings, under-graduate students perceive Phelophepa to be a useful learning experience that optometry schools in South Africa should continue to utilize.




experiential learning; undergraduate education; refraction; ophthalmoscopy


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