Original Research

Are graduate optometrists in South Africa practice ready?

Tara-Leigh Putter, Alvin J. Munsamy, Diane van Staden
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 82, No 1 | a806 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v82i1.806 | © 2023 Tara-Leigh Putter, Alvin J. Munsamy, Diane van Staden | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 August 2022 | Published: 20 September 2023

About the author(s)

Tara-Leigh Putter, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban, South Africa
Alvin J. Munsamy, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban, South Africa
Diane van Staden, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Recent graduates are well-positioned to share their preparedness for practice experiences and how their undergraduate education and training have prepared them for transitioning to the practice environment.

Aim: The study aimed to investigate the perceptions and experiences of optometrists who graduated from South African institutions between 2016 and 2020 concerning practice-readiness.

Setting: The study was conducted among graduates working in South Africa’s private sector.

Methods: This cross-sectional qualitative study used non-probability purposive sampling. Invitations to participate were emailed to all optometrists who met the inclusion criteria. Qualitative data were collected using online semi-structured focus group interviews. Data were anonymised, transcribed, and thematically analysed using interpretive content analysis.

Results: Fifteen optometrists participated in three focus group sessions between 14 December 2020 and 24 February 2021. Four major themes emerged, namely university training, post-graduation learning curve, independent practice, and being an optometrist. Overall, participants perceived their clinical education and training to be strong; however, certain areas of weakness were highlighted regarding preparedness for practice.

Conclusion: Key areas for strengthening optometry training in South Africa include training optometry students using a flexible approach to the clinical examination routine and increasing clinical exposure opportunities during training. Strengthening courses such as practice management and optical dispensing, both essential for private practice, are also required.

Contribution: The findings of this study contribute to the strengthening of optometry education and training in South Africa. This will, in turn, ensure that optometry graduates are adequately equipped to step into the demands of their expected roles within a private practice context upon graduation.


Keywords

optometry; practice-readiness; graduate perceptions; private practice; transition into practice.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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