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.
Lowden K, Hall S, Elliot D, Lewin J. Employers’ Perceptions of the Employability Skills of New Graduates.
London: Edge Foundation, 2011.
Rampersad N. Graduates’ perceptions of an undergraduate optometry program at a tertiary institution: A qualitative
study. MEd degree. Durban: University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2010. https://ukzn-dspace.ukzn.ac.za/bitstream/
handle/10413/5154/Rampersad_Nishanee_2010.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y (accessed 14 July 2023).
Medical and Dental Professions Board. Core competencies for undergraduate students in clinical associate,
dentistry and medical teaching and learning programmes in South Africa. 2014. https://www.chs.ukzn.ac.za/
Libraries/News_Events/MDB_Core_Competencies_-_ENGLISH_-FINAL_2014.pdf (accessed 3 March 2022).
Spaulding S, Martin-Caughey A. The goals and dimensions of employer engagement in workforce development
employer-engagement-in-workforce-development-programs_1.pdf (accessed 3 March 2022).
Oduntan AO, Louw A, Moodley VR, Richter M. Perceptions, expectations, apprehensions and realities of graduating
South African optometry students. S Afr Optom 2007;66(3):94-108. https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v66i3.241
Hausberg MC, Hergert A, Kröger C, Bullinger M, Rose M, Andreas S. Enhancing medical students’ communication
skills: Development and evaluation of an undergraduate training program. BMC Med Educ 2012;12(1):16. https://
Merga M. Gaps in work readiness of graduate health professionals and impact on early practice: Possibilities for
future interprofessional learning. Focus Heal Prof Educ Multidiscip J 2016;17(3):14-30. https://doi.org/10.11157/
Long J, Burgess‐Limerick R, Stapleton F. What do clinical optometrists like about their job? Clin Exp Optom
Goetz JW, Tombs JW, Hampton VL. Easing college students’ transition into the financial planning profession.
Financ Serv Rev 2005;14:231-251.
Casner-Lotto J, Barrington L. Are They Really Ready to Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge
and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century US Workforce. Washington DC: Partnership for 21st
Century Skills, 2006. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED519465.pdf (accessed 4 March 2022).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2023 T Putter, D van Staden, A J Munsamy