The journey to become an optometrist is an arduous one. Not only do you need top grades in you’re A-level qualifications, but also a minimum of a 2:2 in your optometry degree and then finally to pass the Scheme for Registration’s pre-registration period and the dreaded OSCEs. The entire process takes many years of studying and training – but once you’ve qualified with your MCOptom, you are done…right?
Wrong! But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Training can be fun! That said, it is a mandatory requirement to stay registered with the General Optical Council (GOC) and to allow you to continue to be an optometrist. Regular training allows you to maintain and improve your professional skills, raising both clinical care and the standards of the profession.
Currently the GOC regulate the training by enforcing a Continuing Education and Training (CET) scheme, whereby training activities are given a set amount of “CET points” and registrants must reach a total of 36 points over a 3-year cycle. Out of these points, one point must be gained for every one of the 8 core competences, 18 must be deemed “interactive” (where you have interacted with other optometrists to discuss the learning) and you must attend at least one peer review every cycle. Training should continue across the 3 years, with a stipulation that at least 6 points must be earned each year. Alterations on the requirements may be made if you qualify part-way into a CET cycle, but when the cycle restarts, you will be expected to meet the full requirements.
Upon reading, this may appear complicated and a lot of extra work to complete outside of work, but it is easy to pick up CET points and many practitioners easily satisfy the requirements with surplus CET points. So how do you pick up these points now that you are out of the comforts of university and pre-reg? I have listed a few tips below on how to get the most out of your learning and rack up the required CET points quota.
Conferences are the best way to pick up multiple points across the core competences as there are usually multiple speakers and workshops that cover the diversity of optometry. As the events are attended in person, most are eligible to be interactive CET points, allowing you to tick off many requirements on just the one or two days you are there. These are usually the events you can acquire your peer-review points from, with small rooms of tables set up so you can discuss case reports and how you would tackle the scenario.
Many conferences and tradeshows take place each year, with OptometryTomorrow, Optrafair, 100% Optical and Eyecare to name a few.
Journals and Magazines
Many optometrists that are subscribed to the Association of Optometrists will be aware of Optometry Today, the monthly journal. There are usually 4+ non-interactive points in each addition. Add in Optician Magazine and the College’s Optometry in Practice, there are plenty of non-interactive points available to earn. Most involve reading an article and then answering the multiple choice questions that follow. Get enough right to pass, then you earn the point. I often make the effort to do as many of these as time allows, as it really does give you a broader understanding of optometry (as well as refreshes you on areas that you don’t often cover!)
Most of the journals have this content online to submit, but there are other websites out there that offer CET. Some are free – like Specsavers Spectrum or the websites of optical manufacturers, others are paid for – such as www.CETpoint.com. I found Spectrum very easy to navigate and some of the CET offered was a little different to other providers – which made a refreshing change.
The DOCET (Directorate of Optometric Continuing Education and Training) website is open to those who are on the GOC register and this free resource provides many online training courses, which are both available as interactive and non-interactive. Members can also request their courses on DVD and CD for use within a practice environment. Additionally, they can help arrange peer-review materials and fund CET events.
Local Optical Committee (LOC) Events
Your LOC will often arrange or advertise CET-accredited events in your area, which usually consist of an evening at a local hotel or hospital with a speaker or two offering a lecture. These events are effective ways of networking with local optometrists and other optical professionals as well as having a tasty bite to eat with your points. Make sure you are on your LOC’s mailing list to find out about the ones near you.
Special accreditations (such as the WECS/MECS, Low Vision, further certificates etc) usually come with bountiful levels of CET, but also successful completion gives you further skills to provide better services to your patients. They may be costly, but it is an investment in your career, leading to more career opportunities and increased clinical skill.
With all the above in mind, there should be no problem reaching your CET quotas each cycle. Remember, the AOP, the College and the GOC all have searchable directories of all CET events and events available – so make sure you check them out if you are stuck finding the odd core competency point!