Original Research

Optometrists’ perspectives on speciality programme development in South Africa

Nashua Naicker, Alvin J. Munsamy
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 83, No 1 | a910 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v83i1.910 | © 2024 Nashua Naicker, Alvin J. Munsamy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 December 2023 | Published: 09 July 2024

About the author(s)

Nashua Naicker, Department of Optometry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Alvin J. Munsamy, Discipline of Optometry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

Background: South Africa (SA) has postgraduate research-based master’s and doctorate qualifications in optometry with no clinical coursework qualifications in special interest fields. As a result, it hinders professional growth and career path for optometrists and further limits patients’ access to various care pathways from would-be upskilled optometrists.

Aim: To explore optometrists’ perspectives on postgraduate programme development in special interest fields of optometry for SA.

Setting: Study population of practicing optometrists registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

Methods: A quantitative cross-sectional descriptive design was employed, utilising an online questionnaire developed with the Evasys survey system v8.2. Non-probability sampling was used to access eligible participants.

Results: From 424 survey responses, 83.5% had undergraduate qualifications and 95.5% worked in patient-facing environments. Participants responded positively (88%) to this need for educational expansion. Educational needs in Ocular Disease (75.6%), Paediatric Optometry (66.4%), Binocular Vision (65.1%) and sub-specialties of myopia control (41.2%) and Specialised Contact Lens Fitting (31%) were reported. With combined ‘highly important’ and ‘likely important’ responses, participants indicated that obtaining professional recognition (94.9%) and to improve patient care (98.8%) were the main drivers for pursuing additional education and training.

Conclusion: A notable demand was found for coursework postgraduate programmes by the study populations from which professional recognition can be awarded in various special interest fields of optometry. The benefit of improved patient care from upskilled optometrists was expressed.

Contribution: The findings would contribute towards the development of a conceptual framework for postgraduate education and training for optometrists in SA.


Keywords

optometrist; postgraduate; graduate; post-qualification; specialities; special interest; education and training; programme

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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