Courtney Branton volunteering in one of Anthony Laye’s acts during Professional Development Day

Graduate optometrist Courtney Branton of Specsavers Brighton in Victoria took advantage of some of the largest professional development opportunities Specsavers has on offer to boost her clinical skills in her first year of optometry. Here, she describes her experience of the two-day Specsavers Clinical Conference as well as the Professional Development Day she attended immediately after.

What a weekend! The Specsavers Clinical Conference (SCC) was a fantastic event, showcasing Specsavers’ investment and eagerness to make an impact on the state of Australia and New Zealand’s eye health. At uni, we were very much encouraged to consider the public health of Australia, and how we could make an impact on not only our patients, but on the greater community’s ocular health outcomes. It was exciting to hear about the positive impact Specsavers is having on glaucoma detection rates and diabetes management through the introduction of the Oculo electronic referral platform and OCT throughout all stores.

This was not my first time at SCC, and I found that this year, the event was bigger and better than last year, with guest speakers from a variety of topics to keep us all interested. One highlight for me was the lecture on how to manage red eyes by Associate Professor Colin Chan. This lecture was very informative, and I left feeling confident in differentiating between infections and ulcers, and how to manage these conditions appropriately. The Welcome Dinner at the NGV was an amazing night, giving us the opportunity to mingle with other graduates and optometrists in a relaxed environment.

Directly following on from SCC, a Professional Development Day was held on Monday for graduates. This event was more tailored for a graduate optometry audience, with talks on topics such as paediatrics, Medicare and contact lens prescribing. I found the clinical highlight from Professional Development Day to be the paediatrics management lecture by Tina Huynh from QUT. As I see children fairly often in practice and would consider it one of my special interests, this talk helped to refresh my memory of age-normal values and management strategies.

At the end of the day, the keynote speaker, Anthony Laye, involved multiple graduates on stage (myself included!) to illustrate how our tone of voice and body language can give away how we are feeling, or if we are lying. The take-home message from this was really that communication is more than just our words – it’s about the way we physically express ourselves. These physical cues are an important component of how we communicate with our patients, so I think we all learnt a lot and had a lot of fun with this performance.

As a young optometrist, one thing we worry about the most is missing pathology, or mismanaging disease. The lectures at SCC and Professional Development Day gave me some great clinical pearls to remember and to implement immediately in practice. Having access to such a broad spectrum of experts in relevant clinical topics is just one of the reasons I joined the Specsavers Graduate Program. The annual CPD allowance provided as part of the Graduate Program has meant that I have been able to attend fantastic clinical events, and the Specsavers Professional Development team has additionally provided some great resources and support.

As I worked in Specsavers Brighton as a student optometrist, I feel as though my transition into being a graduate optometrist has been very smooth. The Graduate Program has a great structure, and the resources, professional development and support that has been provided by Specsavers’ Support Office has been excellent. My store directors have also been very supportive of me, and always have open doors for when I need advice.

Courtney (far right) with fellow guests at the SCC7 Welcome Dinner

More in the Specsavers Graduate Program Blog series
Supported on a new journey
Moving forward with mentorship
Side by side in the second year
Through the eyes of a graduate optometrist
The benefits of ‘going regional’
Graduate Induction – the first steps
Three days of professional development
Practising rural optometry with a friend
Venturing into leadership with the Year Two Project