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Make your CPD mean something


Lindsay Bloch at SRC


By Lindsay Bloch


It has now been over five years since I graduated from UNSW as an optometrist. In that time, I have collected more than 200 continuing professional development points.

Well, I hope so, given we need those CPD points to stay registered as an optometrist.

Assuming the most efficient route of getting those points is two per hour with a designated speaker and a bonus point for answering questions correctly, that’s at least 67 hours of listening to lectures after graduating. That doesn’t take into account time taken to get to CPD events, meal breaks, accommodation for events outside my city of residence.

Admittedly, when I graduated from university, I saw CPD events as a chore. I was a pretty cocky little graduate. I had just spent five years studying optometry and if I chose my CPD points right, I could sleep through most of the lecture and still get the questions right at the end. 

My husband's parents were both optometrists and were constantly inviting me to come to events that they were going to, as they thought I would be missing out. I didn't know why at the time. 

In my fifth year out as an optometrist, I started working at the Centre for Eye Health. Part of my work schedule included an hour per week of CPD delivered at work. After a year of attending these and being exposed to more of the complicated cases, I had found myself much more confident in my decision-making skills, both at CFEH and in private practice. 

Patients were complimenting me on my ‘thorough eye examinations’, even though I didn’t feel as though I was testing any differently, I just spoke to patients a bit more.

I found myself speaking to other new graduates about what they were doing for their CPD points, and the thought occurred to let you in on my experiences of what you can gain from going to different types of events throughout the year. Please be aware that the following is my personal opinion, and experiences may differ from person to person.

The weekend away


Don’t you wish CPD events were held at exotic islands?

Here we have a two- or three-day conference somewhere exotic, you know, like Melbourne. You get a weekend away from home, all meals for the weekend supplied and it’s tax deductible.

As a new grad, my company paid for one conference a year up to the amount of $1,500 so how could I resist going away and making the most of this great deal? This was my favourite way of earning CPD points for my first few years after graduating.

Apart from the bags of freebies and lucky door prizes, what I like most about these events is seeing the new products and technologies available for optometry. It is a good opportunity to network at these events, although this may be limited if you are travelling interstate.

The only downside is that if you are going to these events to chase points, and therefore go to every single lecture, the information overload is excessive and it is highly unlikely you will retain much from every lecture you attend. You are much better off going to a few lectures that interest you and speaking with other professionals for the rest of the time. This does mean that you don’t get to leave with as many CPD points.

My advice

Decide what you would like to learn about before you go, and try to go to at least two lectures on similar topics. That way, even if your mind switches off after a while, you are more likely to retain the information you have learned.

Hopefully, this won’t be your only CPD event for the year and you can always learn about another topic on another day. Conferences I have found that work well tend to have grand rounds towards the end of the day. I highly recommend going to these, as cases are often interesting enough to keep your attention, even though you will probably be in a food coma after clearing the dessert trays at break time.

The corporate function


This refers to larger events organised by larger companies and wholesalers.

Again, there are perks. Most of these are accompanied by a free dinner and in some cases, a movie. Holy smokes, it’s like I’m dating again! Most of the time I used these events as a time to hang out with my work colleagues, but in terms of actual quality education, I have found this to be a bit of a mixed bag.

My advice

In high-end practices especially, patients want to know where products they are purchasing are made and why they are better than cheaper products. If you don’t know much about the product being sold or about the company that sells the product, attending industry events can be useful; however, keep in mind the potentially biased nature of the information you are about to receive.  Also, if the person organising the event can tell you everything about the product in five minutes before the event, you probably won’t learn much.

The intimate evening

This refers to smaller events held by ophthalmologists or organisations such as Optometry Australia or CFEH.

Events are generally a couple of hours long and for a small number of people. Also yes, free food is usually included. Let’s face it, we’re early career optometrists and we are still recovering from being poor university students.

If you like the topic at hand, this is your chance to actually learn something. If run well, you will not only learn about a topic at hand but also broader issues, like how an ophthalmologist operates or manages your patient, or in the case of an imaging centre, what benefit certain tests will have when managing your patient. 

The downside is that they are not so great for points chasing so you have to go to a lot of them. But let’s be honest, if you actually want to develop as an optometrist, you should be regularly educating yourself anyway and at least your learning hours aren’t wasted.

My advice

Talk to the speakers if you can. Most intimate evenings are not created just so the people running it can educate you. They may also want your referrals.

The people who speak could be interacting with your patients too, so knowing how they work in their practice will mean you can better educate your patients in what to expect when you refer them. Your patients will have much more confidence in you if you have confidence in your referees.

As a side note, if the ophthalmology practice has just purchased a new, fancy machine with little long-term data associated with it, please listen with caution.

For the tech savvy 


Podcasts, Facebook pages and webinars are now readily available from organisations such CFEH and others.

This aspect of optometry is relatively recent and I must admit I’m a little biased because I have jumped on the technology bandwagon.

Facebook posts of interesting cases test your optometry skills with few repercussions. Podcasts and webinars mean less wasted travel time. Some webinars and podcasts can contribute to your CPD point tally, and if you sign in on a live webinar, you have the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers as well. The primary downside is Facebook pages don’t give you CPD points and for any podcasts you will have to track your CPD points and declare them yourself.

My advice

If you travel long enough to work or take public transport, download the podcast and listen to it on your way to work. If you happen to see a patient that day with a condition described in one of your podcasts and refer for proper management, apart from that being an awesome coincidence for you to talk about later that day, your patient will also be grateful and more loyal to you.

Not to mention, a podcast is probably more interesting than listening to that one-sided phone conversation the person sitting next to you on the train is having. The same goes for webinars: hopefully your patient will be more interested in your talking about their eye health compared to that cooking show you would have watched instead.

In summary

If you choose your CPD events well and try to keep them varied, you are giving yourself a much greater opportunity for both personal and professional growth.

As a young optometrist, I am often mistaken for a younger optometrist, yet I make sure that my age is not reflected in the way I perform my work. The way I do this is through continuing professional development. Your patients will have much more faith in you if you have at your fingertips the knowledge of how to manage their needs.

Reproduced with permission from YO NSW


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