Early Online: Issue 4

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Early Online: Issue 4: Perceptions and experiences of employers and mentors of graduate optometrists’ practice readiness in South Africa. (2023). African Journal of Health Professions Education, 15(3). https://doi.org/10.7196/AJHPE.2023.v15i4.1687


Background. Optometry graduates are a key source of new recruits for private practice employers, the largest employer of South African (SA) optometry graduates. Universities should ensure that graduates are employable to compete in the labour market and to practise.
Objective. To gain an understanding of the practice readiness of optometry graduates who qualified from SA institutions between 2016 and 2020, from the perspective of private practice employers and mentors (EMs).
Methods. Using non-probability convenience sampling, private optometry EMs of recent graduates were invited to complete an online questionnaire designed around the core competencies for health professionals in SA. Quantitative data retrieved from a five-point Likert scale were analysed employing SPSS software, using the one-sample t-test, factor analysis and Cronbach’s alpha.
Results. EMs (N=28) felt that graduates showed satisfactory competence in theoretical knowledge, communication, collaboration and professional skills, but weaknesses in aspects of clinical skills, leadership and management skills, and health-advocacy skills. The specific areas of weaknesses identified were dispensing skills, leadership, handling of criticism, handling of stress, implementing processes to improve services, industry awareness and practice management. All questions, except two questions for scholarly and professional skills, had an acceptable level of reliability.
Conclusion. Practice readiness was viewed favourably by EMs for optometry graduates, but the specific weaknesses identified in the curriculum include stakeholder involvement from private employers. Increasing the diversity of clinical hours, including rotations in private practices, as well as facilitating and promoting work-based learning may strengthen practice readiness.



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