It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been a bit drained recently after a bout of ill health, which has now, seemingly, left me open to all the viruses currently circulating Scotland.  It’s made worse by the fact I can’t get an appointment with my GP on the days I’m off and I’m not taking a sick day to attend a doctor’s appointment.

A couple of weeks ago, I managed to drag myself out of my sick bed to attend the lectures and workshops part of Therapeutic Prescribing (Module 1) at Caledonian University.  I apologise to anyone on the course I may have infected with my superbug.

It was interesting to return to uni after a couple of year’s absence and it was even more interesting how quickly I just slotted back in to the routine of lectures.  There were a large number of optoms attending the course and a good few were my classmates, fellow NQs.

I have met quite a few optoms who have done one or two modules of the course, only to find that the time commitment was too great or that they struggled with the return to studying. One of the locums I worked with had urged me to do the course as soon as possible as I would still be fresh enough from uni that I would (hopefully) have retained my good studying habits.  At the same time, you have to have experience of treating a range of conditions so it’s difficult for someone who, perhaps, is NQ but works in a practice where pathology is rare (I met a lovely NQ optom this weekend who told me that she sees a red eye a couple of times a month, if she’s lucky).

It’s been 8 months since I passed my OSCEs but I still have a couple of friends who are in their pre-reg.  They started around the same time as me but struggled a little with Stage 2 and then with their final exams.  They sat the September, January and March OSCEs and are now experts, having experienced 96 stations between them.

The fact that both friends are wonderful optoms, great communicators and clinically sound made me think a lot about the assessment process and how it is difficult to find an exam that actually tests competence in a fair and repeatable way.  I’ve heard a lot about the PQEs from my colleagues at work and how they were also very hit and miss, although the ability to resit one or two rather than go through the full process seems a lot less stressful for those who have to resit.

At my own OSCEs, I failed three stations, one by only 3 marks.  It was a photo of a contact lens complication (something I was quite confident about) and the station asked for a diagnosis, differential diagnosis and management.  I honestly don’t know why I failed that station – I assume I managed to get something wrong (although, very slightly, as it was only 3 marks worth of wrong).  Maybe I didn’t say enough (this was at the start of the OSCEs, when I was still settling into it).

One of the other stations I failed involved an Amsler assessment of a patient.  I had done this many times in practice and passed the station with flying colours at the mock OSCEs but, on the day, I forgot about reading specs and then panicked when the patient told me they couldn’t see anything.  This station came in the middle of the exams and threw me a little.  It was difficult to walk out of the room after an unmitigated disaster, knowing that I’d failed, and then concentrate on the next station.

I also, unsurprisingly, failed the next station.  It was one that involved ordering contact lenses and, as with the contact lens complication, I’m not really 100% sure why I failed.  The station was a bit of a blur so I assume I made a really silly mistake because I hadn’t fully engaged with it after the awful Amsler station.  That’s the problem, though, it’s such a high pressure environment that some people fall apart a bit more readily than others and I don’t mind admitting that I was one of those people.  I didn’t sleep well the night before, ended up with a sore back from sleeping in a strange position and then was thrust into a highly stressful situation.  I’m actually stunned that I passed overall.

Anyway, that’s just something I wanted to share as I’m sure there are some people reading this blog who won’t pass first time.  Don’t be too hard on yourselves as it is difficult and it is completely different to anything you’ll have experienced in the past.

I also wanted to talk about CET again.  I’ve mentioned, in the past, Optometry Today and Optician* for CET points (each issue has a few non-interactive points you can earn on-line and sometimes they will also have a video or other resource you can watch).  You can also earn points on the DOCET website (both interactive and non-interactive), through the Optometry in Practice quarterly magazine from the College of Optometrists (again, you can go on-line to enter your answers) and, if you are in Scotland, there are a few eLearning quizzes on the NHS Education Scotland (NES) portal.

The NES portal is great, btw.  I’ve attended a couple of their interactive workshops recently: one on punctal plugging and lacrimal syringing in December and another on Managing Low Vision in the Community last week.  Both were very hands-on, which I prefer as a learning method.  The Low Vision workshop was taken by Jane MacNaughton (, who wrote the book on low vision (literally).

NES also do webinars, which are lectures you can attend in the comfort of your own home.  The last one was on Stroke: The Patient Experience and I found it very informative, although I like to see the speaker as well as hear them (this is weird, I know, but it helps me pay attention).

As you can guess I’ve gone a little overboard with CET recently.

*Optician magazine now requires you to subscribe in order to access their CET articles.