As part of the Specsavers Graduate Program, graduate optometrists are encouraged to undertake an external visitation to expand their professional experience outside of the clinic. Binushka Tissaarachchi, first-year graduate optometrist at Specsavers Benalla in Victoria, shares what she learned from ophthalmologist Dr Nicholas Karunaratne during her visit to his practice, Hume Eye & Laser Surgery in Wangaratta.

As a new graduate who had recently moved to regional Victoria for work, it was very important that I became familiar with the local ophthalmologists and what each of their specialities were so I could refer my patients appropriately.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr Karunaratne and spending the day at his practice during my first external visitation. He is one of the main ophthalmologists our practice refers to for cataract assessment and glaucoma co-management. I went in wanting to learn about the journey my patients would be making when they went to see him, and was able to actively observe how they were checked in on arrival, assessed by the orthoptist and finally managed by Dr Karunaratne in the consulting room.

One of the key outcomes I wanted out of the day was to learn how many of the cataract referrals we sent through ended up going on either his private or public waiting list and what key points we should discuss with our patients before referring them on to see him. I learnt that a patient only went on the public list if they were willing to do the surgery the following day if the opportunity arose. This has helped change how I refer my cataract patients, choosing to monitor them at our clinic and only referring patients who are definitely ready for the surgery so that Dr Karunaratne’s clinic is not unnecessarily booked up.

Dr Karunaratne is also committed to inter-professional care between himself, the optometrists and the local GPs in our area. This has meant that I now include a patient’s GP in all referral processes so that all medical practitioners are aware of their patient’s situation.

Spending the day at the Hume Eye & Laser Surgery enabled me to meet Dr Karunaratne and his staff, and has helped improve how I refer my patients for specialist care and was certainly a valuable experience.