Curious to learn more about the local FBDO dispensing qualification that Specsavers is facilitating in Australia with the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO)? Hear directly from the pilot intake of local FBDO students on why they decided to enrol in the Level 6 qualification, their experience of the course six months in, and the impact it has already had on their in-store dispensing skills.

Why did you decide to enrol in the FBDO course?

Jonathan Beiers, Specsavers Sydney Central, NSW:
I felt like there was more to learn. Cert IV (Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing) touched on so many topics but as a Level 6 qualification, the FBDO dispensing course is giving me the understanding behind those concepts and the ability to really show the public what a professional dispenser can do.

Jamin Krine, Specsavers Strathpine, QLD: I enrolled in the FBDO course to take my career to the next step. Throughout my career in optics I have tried to learn as much as possible, and I could not pass up the opportunity to access the wealth of knowledge available in the FBDO course. I could see that this course would give me the knowledge and skills needed to better assist my store in meeting the diverse needs of our patients.

Simone Ferrari, Specsavers Sydney MetCentre, NSW: On a personal level, I would like to achieve a greater knowledge in dispensing and standards of practice, which will be directly reflected in my interactions with customers. Professionally, my aim is to advocate how important this qualification is for the industry and the opportunities that it will present for people who want to take their qualification further. Becoming a store partner is also one of my goals, and the FBDO course will provide the technical knowledge that is required of me to better help patients and staff in the future.

How would you describe the learning experience?

Jonathan: Most of the course is online with your own ABDO tutor and textbook learning. The tutors have been amazing and are always there to support us. Our own store partners have been there for support as well, but by far the greatest experience has been getting to the ‘Block Release’ face-to-face workshop and working through the study material with colleagues and the ABDO College teachers.

Jamin: The course includes an online portal, which is very convenient, easy to use, and doesn’t have any of the year’s coursework locked away. Everything is readily accessible, including information on exam content and revision. Whenever I need help, my tutor is available to contact at any time, whether via the online portal or by email, and her replies are very quick and helpful. Assignment feedback is always thorough and helps me gain a proper understanding of the course material.

Simone: The course involves reading the required material and submitting one assignment per week. There are online forums that allow you to interact with other students and discuss various topics, and the ABDO tutors can be contacted via email if you have any queries. We also have two one-week ‘Block Release’ classes with an ABDO teacher before exams.

How have you found the workload?

Jonathan: The course is mainly delivered online, so you need to have the discipline to be there and tackle it every week for the assignments. It’s not a walk in the park by any means, but with some planning, there is definitely time to manage work, study and life.

Jamin: I have found managing my workload and time between store work and coursework one of the biggest challenges. This course requires commitment, and a lot of time, so routine has been absolutely key. With the support of my wife and colleagues, I have been able to get into a rhythm of studying a little bit each day to spread the time and workload out.

Simone: The course, on average, requires six hours per week to read the material and submit the assignment. I allow myself more time when working on topics I’m less familiar with, but the workload is manageable, especially after the ‘Block Release’ classes, as you gain a better understanding of the material and what to expect in the exams.

What support have you received?

Jonathan: Specsavers has really pulled out the stops to make sure the course, workshops and exams have been organised far ahead of time. The Specsavers in-store supervisors and ABDO tutors could not have been more helpful, and having a group chat for the enrolled Specsavers students has provided us with a great place to discuss everything.

Jamin: My supervisor (who is also my store director) is always available to help and answer any of my questions. The Specsavers Dispensing Advancement team have also been regularly checking in and have been a massive help in liaising with ABDO whenever needed. I am also able to receive help from fellow students via the forum on the online portal, or through the WhatsApp group chat that I have joined along with the other Specsavers FBDO students.

Simone: My supervisor is always available to help if I have any questions and has been amazing at motivating me throughout the course. The ABDO tutor is always very clear when marking assignments, providing positive feedback when the answers are right and showing how to get the correct answers when something is incorrect. The other students have been a great support network and I often refer to them, especially after meeting them all in person after the Block Release workshop. The Specsavers Dispensing Advancement team have been outstanding in organising for a tutor to come to Australia for the Block Release classes, and they are always available to help with anything related to course administration.

How has the course impacted your in-store dispensing?

Jonathan: From the most basic activities, the course really cements your confidence in every area of dispensing. I think patients can feel that confidence and knowledge, which really makes every interaction so much more professional and leaves the patient with a sense that they have had their concerns resolved.

Jamin: I think the biggest change has been in my confidence. As my understanding of the underlying principles in dispensing has increased, I have been able to deal with difficult prescriptions, complex patient requirements, and troubleshoots with greater confidence and ability. Colleagues now regularly approach me with dispensing questions or for help with difficult cases, and it feels great to be able to help my team.

Simone: The course has helped me to build greater confidence when interacting with patients as my technical skills have improved. Talking about the course and discussing the content with my colleagues has also been an amazing learning opportunity.

What would you say to others who are considering enrolling in the FBDO course?

Jonathan: If dispensing is the career that you’re choosing to follow, there is no more comprehensive and respected international standard than the Fellowship Dispensing Diploma (FBDO). It’s going to set you up as the standard for your team to follow and the reason your customers are going to come back to your practice.

Jamin: It is definitely worth doing! While it is a challenge, the number of things you will learn and skills you will develop are well worth it. If you are serious about working in optics, this is something you really should do.

Simone: It is an amazing opportunity for people that would like to expand their knowledge and will provide a wide range of opportunities for those who want to take their career in optics further. As a degree-level qualification, the FBDO course is also highly regarded and recognised in a number of countries.