The first intake of Specsavers graduate optometrists for 2018 have gained insight into how their day-to-day clinical practice will ultimately impact eye health in Australia and New Zealand.

Over 80 graduate optometrists from all six Australian and New Zealand optometry schools gathered at the Specsavers Support Office in Port Melbourne, Victoria in February 2018, ready to be inducted into the Specsavers Graduate Program. More than 100 graduates joined the program in 2017.

Over the following three days of Graduate Induction, from 26 to 28 February, the group expanded their clinical, professional and commercial skills through a series of presentations and workshops delivered by Support Office team members and Specsavers store partners. Graduate Program alumni also attended, ready to share their experiences.

“The graduates come to us with significant theoretical and practical knowledge gained from university, and a big part of induction is showing them how they can apply that in a Specsavers retail optometry setting,” explained Adam Buxton, Head of Graduate Recruitment and Development for Specsavers Australia & New Zealand.

Some of the topics discussed included how to manage therapeutic cases, common issues affecting clinical efficiency and strategies to overcome them, best practice for communicating with patients, working effectively within a store team, common reasons for rechecks, and how to apply Medicare item numbers to different clinical scenarios. The graduates were also given tips on maintaining a CPD portfolio and navigating the regulatory landscape in Australia and New Zealand.

Peter Larsen

The bigger picture
While the majority of graduates had already spent a few weeks in-store prior to induction, the three-day event gave them an opportunity to learn about the overarching business strategy beyond their individual practice.

“Our induction not only provides the graduates with information on the day-to-day operation of their practices, but it provides them with an overview of the organisation’s future plans and direction too,” Adam noted. “As the newest members of our clinical workforce, it is critical that they understand the broader goals that lie behind what they do each day, and understand the part they are playing in transforming eye health in Australia and New Zealand.”

This important message was delivered to the group on the first day of induction by Peter Larsen, Optometry Director for Specsavers Aus/NZ. Peter explained how Specsavers was progressively working to make a measurable impact on the frightening statistic of 50% of glaucoma cases remaining undiagnosed.

Further details on how this was being achieved was conveyed through presentations in subsequent days. Instead of offering OCT to patients as an additional test to investigate a clinical indication, Specsavers is using OCT as a standard part of the pre-test screening routine for every patient to help improve detection of glaucoma and other eye diseases.

Importantly, OCT is not just integrated into the patient journey; it is also integrated into the Oculo electronic referral platform which, in turn, is directly integrated into Specsavers’ patient management platform. One process and a single data record provides efficiency of testing, screening, record-keeping and referral in a multimillion-dollar investment across the store network.

“We have a very clear mission as optometrists at Specsavers, and that is to transform eye health in Australia and New Zealand,” Peter stated. “It is a lofty goal, but one we will move towards with confidence, backed by evidence. OCT as part of every patient’s routine, integrated into our patient management and electronic referral platform alongside our investments in other equipment and world-class professional development, all form part of the Specsavers optometry picture.

“With more than 3.5 million eye tests due to be undertaken by us over the coming 12 months, we will be able to evaluate all our data and, for the first time anywhere with such a large cohort, provide a snapshot of eye health and benchmarked eye health trends in Australia and New Zealand.”

The Welcome Event at Eureka 89

Expanding networks
In addition to developing their clinical and business knowledge, the newly-qualified optometrists were encouraged to connect with fellow graduates from across Australia and New Zealand throughout induction, adding to the extensive support network that is already in place for them as part of the Graduate Program.

On the Tuesday evening, the graduates enjoyed breathtaking views of Melbourne from Eureka 89 as they socialised over cocktails and canapes at the Welcome Event. The final day of induction also saw the graduates form groups and work together in delivering creative presentations summarising the key lessons they had learned over the course of the event.

“We are continually evolving our Graduate Program in response to changes in optometry and feedback from both graduates and store partners,” Adam said. “What we’ve really focussed on in recent years is making Graduate Induction more interactive and practical in terms of what the graduates can take away from the event. Rather than a one-way delivery of information, the graduates are fully immersed and engaged in a range of activities, forums and presentations, which we find helps them better understand and apply the information when they return to store.”

Specsavers is the largest employer of graduate optometrists across Australia and New Zealand. Its comprehensive two-year Graduate Program provides newly-qualified optometrists with a dedicated mentor, support network and structured program to assist them in their development.

To find out more about the Specsavers Graduate Program, email or check out the range of graduate opportunities currently available.

Highlights for graduates

“One of the main takeaway messages for me was that it’s okay to ask for help, and there is so much support available to us. I’m also really excited about OCT. I have an OCT in my store but hearing the talks about trying to catch the 50% of undiagnosed glaucoma and being a part of that – it’s given me a whole new meaning and appreciation of the OCT that I have, knowing the impact I can make on the community that I’m in.” – Bridget Field, Specsavers Mount Maunganui, NZ
“Some of the best moments for me were watching the learning summary presentations. They were very amusing and helpful at the same time; having a bit of comedy in the presentations made them relatable. Tuesday night [the Welcome Event] was really fun (Wednesday morning – not so much!). All in all, it’s been really good, and I definitely feel more prepared for full-time work now.” – Hunter Wang, Specsavers Thebarton, SA
“The Medicare presentation really stuck out to me because it’s very practical – something we’re going to be dealing with every day with every patient. I also liked learning about the history of what Specsavers has accomplished – you know that you’re part of a team of people who have not only gone a far way themselves, but who also believe in you as the future of Specsavers. We’re going to go back to work feeling refreshed, educated and ready to give it our all, knowing that Specsavers has our back and that they’re there to support us when we need them.” – Marriette Khalil, Specsavers Blacktown, NSW