As the pilot intake of students near the end of their first year of the local Fellowship Dispensing Diploma (FBDO) course facilitated by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), they reflect on what they have learned so far, how their day-to-day practice has changed as a result, and what they are looking forward to in their second year of study.
What have been the highlights of the first year of your FBDO journey?
Simone Ferrari, Specsavers Sydney MetCentre, NSW: The past year has been a year of learning, and I’ve enjoyed working closely with the knowledgeable and inspiring people that I have met through the FBDO course. For me, the block release workshops were the highlight of the year, as I got to better understand the syllabus and interact with ABDO College Principal Jo Underwood and the other FBDO students.
Jonathan Beiers, Specsavers Sydney Central, NSW: The first year of study has been an exciting ride, learning how to adapt to full-time work and study and re-engaging my brain into the technical studies, maths and science needed to pass. My favourite aspect has been the sheer variety of topics and how in-depth we managed to go in such a short time.
Jamin Krine, Specsavers Strathpine, QLD: ABDO fits a really large amount of learning in the first year of study without making it feel overwhelming. As a result, I feel far more confident in my ability to adapt my dispensing approach to each patient. The biggest highlight for me has been the focus on increasing professionalism, as it is through this that I feel that we as dispensers can increase our role and improve our recognition in the ophthalmic industry.
How have you applied the knowledge you have gained from the FBDO course in-store?
Simone: Learning the theory behind optics has helped me to better assist patients, especially when choosing frame materials or lens designs that would best suit their facial measurements and prescription. In addition, I have noticed that the confidence I have gained through the extensive FBDO training is reflected in my customer interactions and reassures them of my professional ability.
Jonathan: Having a full understanding of the products that we sell in all their detail has meant that patients are coming back to store as repeat customers. I found that this was because I had managed to explain a concept or fix a vision issue caused by misconceptions or mistakes in the past that they had never been able to solve with other eye care providers.
Jamin: It is difficult to pinpoint a small number of areas where I have been able to apply this knowledge in-store as it has affected every aspect of my work. If I were to pick one area that I have seen a drastic improvement in, it would be my confidence in explaining the patient’s prescription, and recommending lenses and suitable options in all my dispenses. Seeing patients receive the best possible pair of glasses and having them express their confidence in my ability has reinforced to me the benefit of my study.
How has the course changed your understanding of the value of high-quality dispensing?
Simone: Understanding how important it is to regulate the industry has definitely been an eye opener. When it comes to optics, very small differences can have a massive effect on the patient’s experience and vision, and possibly even on their quality of living. Having trained dispensers and staff will ensure that all those relevant subtleties are taken into consideration and, thus, raise the standards of practice.
Jonathan: The knowledge and language skills provided through qualification are particularly beneficial in dispensing to difficult or demanding patients, or patients who come to store with the expectation that they will be dealing with a salesperson rather than a trained professional. Customers respect this level of expertise, and are more likely to take the advice given and return to your practice.
Jamin: I have had quite a few patients ask me why there is such a large difference between the quality of dispensing they have received at different stores, companies, and even staff within the same store. The biggest reason I can see for this is the disparity in the level of training, professionalism, and standards of practice between each dispenser. This course has shown me that high-quality dispensing and high standards will not only benefit patient outcomes, but also improve community and industry perceptions of our profession.
How did you benefit from the block release workshops, especially in regard to preparing for the upcoming August exam?
Simone: From clarifying my understanding of the course content to organising a block release workshop dedicated to exam revision, everything was well thought out. The support of the Specsavers Dispensing Advancement team, classmates, my supervisor, Sasha Kempen, and Jo Underwood has also been a key element as I prepare myself for the upcoming exams.
Jonathan: The face-to face-blocks were by far the most amazing part of the student experience, particularly the ability to share with fellow FBDO students and to learn from Jo Underwood and the wealth of experience all her years of teaching have afforded her. The blocks were well organised but also flexible; due to the small size of our cohort, the facilitators could go at a speed that suited all of us.
Jamin: The block release workshops have been absolutely critical in my preparation for the exam. Studying online, while rewarding and productive, cannot compare to the quality of learning and preparation that comes from face-to-face instruction. These workshops have also provided me with an invaluable opportunity to build friendships and connections with my fellow students, ABDO facilitators, and Specsavers support staff, making it much easier for me to reach out for help when I need it.
What are you looking forward to studying in your second year of the FBDO course?
Simone: The second year will have more practical material, and I am looking forward to putting what we learn into practice.
Jonathan: Anatomy and ocular health are topics I’m looking forward to in the second year. We have now covered most, if not all, of the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing topics, so the subjects coming up will be fresh and new in their own right.
Jamin: Since using OCT in-store, I have been fascinated with ocular anatomy and what can go wrong with the eye, and how I, as a dispenser, can provide solutions to these conditions. Because of this, I am really looking forward to learning about ocular anatomy and abnormal ocular conditions.
What advice would you give to someone about to embark on the FBDO course?
Simone: My advice for any new students embarking on this exciting journey is to communicate with the ABDO tutors and your fellow FBDO students when there is a subject you are not familiar with before the first block release workshop, to write down anything you need clarified during the block release, and finally to rest assured that there is always a support team available to help.
Jonathan: The course is a fantastic learning experience and a commitment that needs to be taken seriously. Understand that you will need to put aside consistent time to complete the assignments, but also know that the rewards will be well worth your efforts.
Jamin: By taking on this course, you will be playing a vital role in improving the recognition and professionalism of dispensers in Australia, so go into this course with an eagerness to learn and to share what you learn. As with any course of study, you will get out of this course what you put in to it, so give it everything you can.