Graduate optometrists share learnings from Year Two Projects

Eighteen early-career optometrists that graduated from Deakin University two years ago have concluded their Specsavers Graduate Program journey with a presentation on the findings of their Year Two Project.

The Year Two Projects see graduates plan and execute an in-store initiative that leads to positive outcomes for the store in an area that aligns with the graduate’s professional development interests.

An event was held on 29 July at the Specsavers Support Office in Port Melbourne where the graduates presented the findings and outcomes of their projects to their peers, store partners and key Specsavers support staff. At the conclusion of each presentation, the audience was given a chance to ask questions, generating further discussion and additional opportunities for shared learning between the graduates and store partners.

To award the winner of the best project, a panel comprising members of the Graduate Recruitment and Professional Development team and the Optometry Department evaluated each project based on how closely it aligned with Specsavers’ vision and values, the planning and management of the project, as well as on the presentation itself. The graduates in the audience were also given an opportunity to anonymously vote on the project they thought was best.

Taking out the People’s Choice Award was Erin Lam from Specsavers Macarthur in New South Wales. Through her project, Erin was able to increase the percentage of patients who completed a visual field test on the same day as their initial appointment. This reduces the likelihood of losing the patient to follow-up and enhances patient outcomes by facilitating early detection of potential eye conditions.

The overall winners, as determined by the judging panel, were Steven Lam and Czarina Igno from Specsavers Sunbury in Victoria. The pair jointly conducted a project that increased the number of new contact lens fits in line with the store’s business objectives.

“Czarina and Steven’s project is a great example of what the Year Two Project aims to achieve: to demonstrate measurable impact in an area that relates to the graduates’ personal and professional interests, whilst also demonstrating a positive benefit for their store,” commented Adam Buxton, Head of Graduate Recruitment and Development for Specsavers Australia & New Zealand.

“Steven and Czarina were great presenters, but they were also able to back this up with a thoughtful and targeted project that demonstrated how staff training can have a significant impact on overcoming the barriers to contact lens uptake and ensuring patients are properly educated on the lifestyle benefits of contact lenses. This is also a project that can be scaled up across many stores and has the potential to have a huge impact on contact lens conversations and take-up.”

The Year Two Project presentations signified the completion of the Specsavers Graduate Program for the cohort and the event included a celebratory component. Each graduate received a certificate of completion and a bottle of champagne, and enjoyed drinks and canapés as they discussed the next stage of their careers.

Winners Profile

In their joint project, Steven Lam and Czarina Igno from Specsavers Sunbury aimed to boost their store’s business outcomes by increasing new contact lens fits.

To achieve this, the pair analysed the store’s current contact lens procedures and identified where potential improvements could be made, which included patient communication and product recommendation.

Steven and Czarina developed training based on these findings, which they delivered to the store’s clinical and retail staff in meetings held outside of clinic hours. The training included effective language that could be used when talking to patients about contact lenses, and how to personalise each experience to better meet each patient’s eye care needs through the introduction of contact lenses.

Steven stated, “Over the course of this project, we found that the main barrier to contact lens uptake was fear, with 74% of our patients reporting that they were afraid to put their fingers in their eyes. By identifying this, we were able to improve the communication skills used in the clinic and in-store when recommending contact lenses, which led to a 33% increase in the number of patients who were fitted with contact lenses compared to the previous quarter.”

Czarina added, “This project allowed Steven and I to develop our leadership skills, as we learned how to lead a large team to implement new systems to reach a shared goal. We also learned how to delegate tasks towards the strength and interest of each team member and gained valuable experience in assessing business systems.”