The recent article: Recognition of Ocular Therapeutics in Optometry, Vision, Volume 26, No.3, 2017 (download PDF article here or read online) was met with overwhelming positive response from many optometrists. In addition, I was inundated with many questions from Optometrists throughout South Africa. In light of this, I have put together the most frequently asked questions posed and my response.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Is the course only done through UKZN?
A: Yes. The course is a joint collaboration between UKZN and SUNY. The course outline was approved and accredited by the HPCSA. Last year, the course was held in Johannesburg, but was still under the auspices of UKZN.
Q: I am interested in the post graduate Ocular Therapeutics Course. There was one in 2015 and the other in 2016. Could you please let me know when the next one will be held?
A: Currently, the main focus is to get the successful candidates who have passed the Therapeutics Course to complete the 600 clinical hours. In 2018, UKZN will provide details of the exact date for the next course.
Q: I live very far away; do I have to attend the course at UKZN?
A: Sacrifices have to be made. Yes, you have to travel to attend the course just like many other optometrists from far flung areas of South Africa who have already done so.
Q: I possess a therapeutics qualification from a highly credible, overseas university. Do I get credit for this course?
A: There is no automatic recognition of any foreign therapeutics qualification. However, the candidate can approach the HPCSA to write the local therapeutics examination. This is a generic rule that applies to all foreign-qualified health practitioners wanting to practise a profession that is registered with the HPCSA in South Africa. In my opinion, the easiest path is to attend the UKZN/SUNY course.
Q: I have done clinical hours overseas as part of an overseas acquired Therapeutic Course. Do I get credit for the clinical hours?
A: Unfortunately, according to the HPCSA, the 600 hours must be done in our local public health institutions.
Q: Can I practice therapeutics without doing the 600 clinical hours? A: No
Q: I work for/with an ophthalmologist; do I also have to do the Therapeutics Course?
A: Working for/with a private ophthalmologist gives you a great clinical perspective, but you still have to undergo the same training as other optometrists attending the PGCOT.
Q: Can I do the 600 hours with a private ophthalmologist? A: No
Q: Can you give me some details about the Therapeutics course?
A: The PGCOT course has 3 modules. Module 1 and 2 cover many ocular conditions and the management thereof. Also, these two modules deal with pharmacology and systemic conditions as well. Module 3 encompasses ethics, epidemiology and important public health concepts. After successful completion of all three modules, UKZN offers a letter that the optometrist uses to gain access to public ophthalmology departments where the delegates has to complete a minimum of 600 hours of practical training utilising the skills taught and prescribing therapeutics under clinical supervision of an ophthalmologist or medical officer.
Q: What are the pre-requisites for the Therapeutics course?
A: The pre-requisite for entry into the Therapeutics Course is diagnostics certification. Older optometrists who have BOptom or Dip Optom and who have also done CAS Diagnostics are eligible to attend the PGCOT. Recently qualified BOptom graduates, who have diagnostics certification incorporated in the undergraduate curriculum also are eligible to attend the PGCOT.
Q: I qualified in 2003 from a local South African university; can I do the Therapeutics Course?
A: Kindly check with the Optometry Department where you graduated whether your degree that you possess has diagnostics certification incorporated. Each local university has a specific date from when the undergraduate degree automatically confers diagnostics certification based on HPCSA accreditation.
Q: Can optometrists who have not done the SUNY course remove foreign bodies?
A: The UKZN/SUNY course enables the optometrist to practice full scope optometry (diagnostics plus therapeutics). CAS-Diagnostics qualification allows the optometrist to remove foreign bodies. Essentially, foreign body removal falls under the scope of practitioners who possess either the CAS-Diagnostics or PGCOT.
Q: Can we use only schedule 2 drops?
A: Optometrists with recognition in Ocular Therapeutics in Optometry can use up to Schedule 4 medicines. They are permitted to use oral and topical medicines from schedules 1 to 4, for both paediatric and adult patients.
Q: Do pharmacies accept a prescription for medications from optometrists?
A: Yes. The SAOA have informed pharmacists about the Scope of Optometry. Even medical aids are aware of this. Optometrists with recognition of Ocular Therapeutics in Optometry have this registration category appearing on their HPCSA membership card, which can be produced whenever prescribing status is queried. Please forward your HPCSA registration card and certificate, which reflects your Ocular Therapeutics credentials to Harry Rosen to forward to medical aids.
Q: Who do we contact regarding the Therapeutics course?
A: Dr Vanessa Moodley of UKZN is the course leader for the Therapeutics Course. Dr Moodley has also been in charge of HPCSA examinations and will advise you further, based on your circumstances, dates of next courses etc.
Q: Who do we contact regarding difficulties we are experiencing gaining access to public institutions to complete our 600 clinical hours?
A: Inform France Nxumalo (012 395 8071, firstname.lastname@example.org), who is in charge of the Eye Care Programme from the National Department of Health and Audience Maluleke, SAOA president 083 9888 079, email@example.com
The Post graduate Certificate in Ocular Therapeutics and the new undergraduate curriculum are important clinical programmes enhancing the skills of local optometrists. Indeed, this is one of the proudest moments in South African optometry.