As you may remember, I started the Independent Prescribing course all the way back in 2015.  At the time, I was working in a multiple, I had the opportunity* and thought that being an IP optom was a natural progression for me.  I loved the idea of being able to provide treatment for my patients with straight-forward eye problems without sending them to their GP or the hospital.  Sometimes, I would ask a GP to prescribe something only to end up playing phone-tag with them over the details.  When I worked in Lanarkshire, I became LENS qualified – this allowed me to supply chloramphenicol, fusidic acid, hypromellose, cyclopentolate, aciclovir (later, when they had problems sourcing that, it was replaced with ganciclovir) and other preparations for minor eye-related ailments.  I thought this was a wonderful system and really missed it when I left that health board to work closer to home.

You might be wondering why, two years down the line, I’ve only got one module (out of three) under my belt.  Well, in 2015, I couldn’t get the time off work to attend the second module and then, I re-registered in 2016, only to find out that I’d booked a holiday (for a special birthday) at the same time as the module exam**.  Ooops.

So, here I am, in 2017, two years after starting the course and I’m just over half-way through the process.  The exam for module two was on Friday and this weekend we had a selection of lectures and tutorials.

For anyone thinking about the IP course, it’s a bit of a strange experience.  Instead of having a weekly class, the teaching happens in three short bursts, followed by a couple of months of self-study.  Each module has coursework and then an exam at the end of it.  The first module concentrates on common anterior eye complaints, the second is focused on glaucoma and the third is mainly about systemic drug interactions and adverse drug reactions.  The course work is a case report (for module 3, it’s two case reports) and each exam is a three hour affair which includes multiple choice, short answer questions and a VRICS style section.

While the material is quite straight-forward, in the beginning, it can feel overwhelming.  Once you realise that, as IP optoms, there are only a few types of drugs we will be using, it becomes much simpler.  If you have a BNF, a quick look at Section 11 (the eye bit) will show you every drug and preparation that you might possibly use, excluding the intra-ocular drugs (although I’m all for continued professional development, I think I’ll leave the Lucentis injections to the ophthalmologists and ophthalmic nurses).

Overall, it’s been an interesting experience and I would urge anyone thinking of getting IP qualified to do it sooner rather than later.  When I was a pre-reg, I was advised by a wonderful locum optom to do the IP course as soon as I could – she said, the longer you are qualified and out of the habit of studying, the harder it is to get back into the swing of it.  This is especially true for the IP course where, as well as working, you will have to do a lot of independent study: revising for the exam, preparing the coursework and reading articles on such diverse (and sometimes desperately boring) areas such as pain management, clinical governance, laboratory investigations and anti-microbial agents.

So, fingers crossed that I have passed the second module.  Still, I have another two pieces of coursework, the module 3 exam, twelve days of hospital experience and the final College of Optometrists exam to sit before they let me loose with a prescription pad.


* NHS Education Scotland sponsors optoms based in Scotland, which is yet another reason I’m lucky to be practising here.

** As the course happens around the same time every year, this week I spent my birthday studying for/panicking about the exam the next day.