Expertise from your supplier
Nothing beats personal contacts when it comes to business and that certainly applies to the eye care world. The first source of information you have are the professionals who surround you, including your suppliers. Your local sales representative can offer you a great deal of information on new products and services.
Moreover, some suppliers have webinars on different topics and/or access to experts via chat functions. While recognising that these facilities are offered primarily to make you aware of available products and solutions, they can serve as an excellent source of knowledge and broaden your understanding of the latest developments in the market.
Blogs and articles
Most research institutes make published material available online and sometimes you can subscribe to blogs from the medical experts. You can find what you’re looking for by googling the specific topics that interest you – although be aware that quality can vary considerably between blogs depending on the author and discipline. Language and culture can also be a barrier, so it makes sense to look for blogs and articles that are as close to home as possible.
You may need to spend some time browsing in order to find out which sites are worthwhile. It can be worth it to ask colleagues, or look at blog aggregator websites such as Top 50 Optometry Websites & Blogs for Optometrists & Eye Care Professionals or the UK Association of Optometrists’ Eye Care Blogs. Another good resource is the website of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), as well as the World Council of Optometry.
Exchanges with peers
Armchair/desktop research will get you far, and is sufficient in many cases to keep track of the latest trends and tendencies in the sector and the market. Nothing, however, beats personal contact between practitioners and face-to-face communication with experienced professionals. Ask yourself: how often do you meet people in your town, region or country who are active in the same sector as you? If the answer is rarely or never, then why is that? Is there something you can do about it?
Sectors that thrive often cooperate as well as compete, and this is especially true of industries in which there are many small players. You may think of other people in your market as competitors, but that shouldn’t prevent you from learning from each other: other experts and specialists may have answers to many of the questions you’re asking yourself. It could be worth your while to expand your network – for instance, you may have contacts or partnerships with clinics or other practices.
Professional and trade associations:
- European Council of Optometry and Optics
On the European level, the European Council of Optometry and Optics represents the interests of optometrists and opticians from 25 European countries. It aims to promote eye health across borders and to harmonise the clinical and educational standards of optometric and optical practice throughout Europe.
- The International Opticians Association (IOA)
You are probably a member of a professional association, most of which arrange meetings and networking activities. Membership of an international professional organisation such as the International Opticians Association (IOA) offers the chance to interact with people of similar backgrounds in other countries and to learn from their experiences and viewpoints. The IOA acts as a forum for opticians, industry partners and educators to come together to discuss topics which impact on the sustained development of the profession and delivery of world class eye care and quality vision.
- World Council of Optometry
A similar organisation is the World Council of Optometry, which facilitates the development of optometry around the world and supports optometrists in promoting eye health and vision care through advocacy, education, policy development and humanitarian outreach. The sharing of best practices, up-to-date product knowledge and strategies to enhance scope of practice and skills is critical to the future and health of the profession.
- Association of British Dispensing Opticians
An example of a national organisation is the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, the awarding body for dispensing opticians in the UK and for overseas professionals who have passed the FBDO qualification. As well as awarding optician qualification (and further diplomas in contact lens practice, low vision and spectacle lens design), ABDO supports its members with a variety of different member benefits.
Conferences, trainings and demonstrations
Seminars, conferences, symposiums and forums are great places to hear about what’s happening in the industry, as well as meet people – and most practitioners are interested in talking about topics regarding their profession. Your national or regional optometry association should be able to provide more information on nearby events that might be of interest to you.
Yes, attending a seminar or a training course will take time away from your practice – but it could very well pay for itself many times over. You may get useful news and information about the latest research, new products, new procedures, new rules and laws, and much more besides, all delivered by top-quality lecturers. Many conferences also have exhibitions where you can see and try the latest product developments.
There are numerous ways to learn more and develop your competencies as a practicing professional. You should take part in a wide range of events and activities – but most importantly of all, keep an open mind and an attitude that ensures that personal growth becomes an automatic reflex. If you do so, you will soon find that competence development becomes a continuous, everyday process. Happy learning!