The practical work of the optometrist 2: communication skills in optometry

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Management


This knowledge exchange proposal will produce and deliver a communication skills package that will benefit optometric practitioners, students, trainers and organisations. It builds on the ESRC-funded project 'Assessing Eye Sight and Ocular Health: The Practical Work of the Optometrist' that was successfully completed by the applicants in 2011. The project involved the video-recording of over 60 optometric consultations, which were then subjected to detailed scrutiny. The analysis pointed to specific and contingent circumstances arising within consultations and the communicative challenges associated with them. It explicated, for example, how patients articulate their experiences of their eyes and eye sight, and how optometric tools and technologies shape patients' participation in the consultation. The findings from the project are highly relevant to optometric practitioners; they include, for instance, observations concerning the design of different kinds of questions to elicit information from patients, the role played by tools and technologies in consultation interactions, and the alternative consequences different communicative actions can have for the progress of the encounter. Workshops and feedback seminars conducted during the project also revealed the value of using video-recorded practice as a device for professional development; having access to the recordings enabled optometrists to further their understanding of communication in the consultation and reflect on their own practices.

This knowledge exchange project, 'The Practical Work of the Optometrist 2', will use the findings from the completed ESRC project to contribute to the communication skills training and CPD of optometrists. In collaboration with our project partner, the College of Optometrists, and supported by the highly experienced optometrists in the research team, the project will develop a communication skills training package that can be adapted for the diverse needs of various stakeholders, including universities, professional organisations and practitioners. The project will involve a range of activities. Beginning with a scoping exercise designed to assess the current state of communication skills training for optometrists in the UK, it will then draw on discussion workshops with practitioners to solicit user concerns regarding communication in optometric consultations. The findings from these initial activities will inform the content and structure of a communication skills programme comprised of seminars and workshops. The experience from these seminars and workshops will be used to develop a communication skills portfolio, a physical and electronic resource pack for optometrists that will include practical findings and guidance on key themes relevant to the consultation, illustrated by video-clips provided on an accompanying DVD.

The overall communication skills package will be disseminated through professional, policy and research networks using a variety of means, such as publications in professional journals and magazines, websites of professional organisations and a colloquium that will bring together practitioners and policy makers.

Planned Impact

This project has arisen in light of dissemination activities conducted as part of the original project. At conferences such as Optometry Tomorrow and in workshops organised as part of the project, participating optometrists frequently remarked on how relevant our observations were for their work and for the training and continued education of practitioners.

The project furthermore addresses a significant need in contemporary healthcare and adds value to communication skills training in optometry through a series of analytically and empirically informed knowledge transfer activities. As such it has very firm links to the ESRC's strategic plan: in particular it draws on evidence to identify effective interventions that lead to improved health and well being (p. 07) as well as advancing professional skills (p. 12 ). Furthermore, the sustained contact with users and beneficiaries throughout the project ensures that its impact will be maximised (p. 61).

More specifically, the project outcomes will be to the benefit of:
- Individual optometrists and student optometrists who will be provided with guidance relevant to everyday concerns of both students and qualified practitioners.
- Optometry clinics and practices will be given guidance on how to enhance their collaboration with colleagues, for example through observation and reflection activities.
- Our dissemination activities will demonstrate to professional optometry organisations and policy makers that detailed empirical research of optometric practice can be beneficial to optometrists' education and training as well as to their day-to-day work.
- Optometric patients will benefit from improved optometric service and care. The patient experience of optometric practice will be enhanced.
- The academic and research community will be provided with a case that demonstrates how an ESRC funded project can have substantial impact on professional practice.

The relevance of the project's outcomes for the optometry profession will be ensured by our partnership with the College of Optometrists. Members of the College will contribute to determine the precise content of the communication skills training programme. They will also attend and provide feedback on seminars and workshops that we will be holding as part of the project. Their feedback will be implemented in the development of the communication skills portfolio.

The project also resonates with King's College London's mission to 'create a healthy society' and to consolidate links between clinical and academic work.


10 25 50
Description The findings of the project have been used to write Communication guidelines for Optometrists that currently are being prepared for publication by the College of Optometrists, the professional body for optometrists. The College of Optometrists have published large parts of the Communication Guidelines on the website. The Communication Guidelines are accessible to the the general public. The College of Optometrists now is in the process to further use the material from the project to develop specific Continuing Professional Development activities for their stakeholders. The academics who worked on the ESRC-funded project are involved in the development of this material. We also have run a series of workshops on communication skills with optometrists, both at King's College London and in optometrists' practices. The content of these workshops was informed by findings from our scoping exercise that revealed optometrists' requirements in terms of communication skills and from findings of the original ESRC-funded research project on The Practical Work of Optometrists. The findings were used for the design of workshops we have held at optometry departments of universities. We used the scoping exercise and findings from the original project to design course material and create interactive sessions with students that highlight the importance of communication and communication sills for optometrists. Professors of Optometry who took part in the workshops report that they use content of the courses in their teaching and course development. We also have published 2 articles in the practitioner magazine Optometry Today. The articles inform readers about communication practices and offer them activities they can undertake to gather professional development points. The activities conducted as part of the project, in particular the practitioner workshops and the published articles in practitioner magazines have influenced optometry practice, in teaching and training as well as in continuing professional development. The impact in the effectiveness of practice will seen in the future when practitioners use the material published on the website of the College of Optometrists at the moment and developed by them at the moment. With the help of the College of Optometrists the practical activities designed for professionals to use to reflect on their own practice will become more generally applied and we will see an enhancement in the quality of the healthcare service the UK population receives from their optometrists.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Healthcare
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Knowledge Exchange 
Organisation The College of Optometrists
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution -nine workshops for optometry students at two UK universities. - eight communication skills seminars in which eligible participants received a Continuing Education and Training (CET) point. - two published articles in Optometry Today - the most popular publication for eye care professionals. Each article was accompanied by exam questions through which participants could receive a CET point. Over 750 participants undertook each exam. - Helena Webb provided a commentary on communication research in Optometry Today - the Communication Skills Portfolio will be disseminated widely through the College of Optometrists and will provide a long term resource. - a methods paper on using video to explore healthcare interactions is currently in press with the International Journal of Qualitative Research. - in November 2013 we held a successful colloquium on the use of video to promote knowledge exchange between academia and the professions. - in February 2014 Helena Webb presented the project work at a roundtable discussion of video research and ethics at the Institute of Education. - in June 2014 Helena Webb presented an overview of the project activities at a one day conference on 'Healthcare, Work and Organisation' at King's College London. - we have produced a project website
Collaborator Contribution - dissemination of survey for scoping exercise - hosting focus group - disseminating findings from the project - disseminating communication skills portfolio - liaising with optometric practices - liaising with user groups related to the COO - via DOCET->
Impact - communication skills portfolio - 2 articles in Optometry Today - liaising with relevant personnel to ensure optometrist receive professional development points (CET) for their reading of the Optometry Today articles - 2 articles in academic journals (Sociology and International Review of Qualitative Research)
Start Year 2013
Description Dissemination 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The publication of the award by the College of Optometrists raised awareness for the project. It led to request by practitioners who were interested in participating in workshops and in activities that allow them to gather professional developments points

A noticeable number of practitioners enquired about further information about the project and about events organised as part of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013