This article was written in collaboration with National Vision, a proud supporter of NewGradOptometry and new graduate optometrists.
Clinical Pearls From National Vision’s 2019 Continuing Education Symposium
Introduction by Antonio Chirumbolo, OD.
Optometry continuing education is something that simply comes with the job. After graduating from optometry school, you are required to continue lifelong learning to ensure you are keeping up to date with standards of care and practicing to the best of your ability.
As many optometrists know, obtaining your optometry continuing education (CE) to satisfy your state’s requirements can be time-consuming and costly! In addition, let’s be honest – most of us would agree that it is more of a massive chore we dread, rather than something we happily anticipate.
National Vision has transformed CE into something that its Doctor of Optometry network actually looks forward to. The annual National Vision Continuing Education Symposium is a unique four-day event that allows full-time ODs who practice at offices inside National Vision locations, including sublease holders, not only to obtain all of their optometry continuing education credits for free (up to 22 hours), but do so in an environment that facilitates interaction, engagement, and networking opportunities.
In this article, we take a look at the CE symposium from the perspective of three optometrists in the National Vision Doctor of Optometry network, and highlight some of the top clinical lessons from this year’s courses.
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the National Vision Continuing Education Symposium
National Vision introduced the annual Continuing Education Symposium 23 years ago, and I’ve been in attendance since inception. As Clinical Director, I work with administrators to select specific CE courses that are relevant and applicable to current everyday practice of the optometrists within offices in our locations. Our goal has always been to provide these doctors with top-notch continuing education; however, this conference is more than just about CE. I personally look forward to connecting with old friends, colleagues and classmates.
Having attended this symposium now every year since 1997, it is just amazing to me to see the growth of our doctor community. Our first event hosted less than 100 optometrists. This year, over 1,000 ODs attended! Just standing in front of the room and looking at all of the many familiar faces – old friends and colleagues who have attended for many years and new friends from recent mentorship sessions at their very first CE event – is an incredible feeling. It is so rewarding to see how we as an organization have touched so many doctors, who in turn have reached out to so many patients throughout the years.
National Vision provides this benefit to its network of Optometrists for several reasons.
National Vision is a very doctor-centric organization, and we believe that patients deserve the best, highly qualified and educated doctors available. Not only do doctors receive most, if not all, of the education credits required for their annual license renewal at these meetings, they also receive the most current and relevant education from top speakers throughout the country. We partner with an outside continuing education administrator whose sole function is to organize and administer optometry CE events throughout the world. They have access to some of the most well-known speakers in the industry, allowing us to offer stellar education. They provide a list of speakers and courses, and based on the doctors’ current CE needs, we formulate a final course itinerary.
We also provide this benefit to help new graduate ODs. New grads often don’t know how stressful or costly getting CE can be, so they sometimes do not understand the large benefit of this event. What I find, however, is that new grads are still very eager to learn coming right out of school. Since they are typically not required to get CE in the first year after graduation, I still urge them to attend and take advantage of connecting with seasoned doctors to learn the ins and outs of what it’s really like to practice in a corporate setting. This is a perfect time to network and establish new mentors and friends, and these connections will likely benefit them for years to come. Once again, this event is about so much more than just CE!
We provide ODs with the highest quality CE and ensure it’s simple for them to meet licensure renewal requirements.
It is our goal to provide as many credits to as many doctors from each state as possible. We provide 22 credit hours each year, including eight tested credit hours for states that require it. This formula satisfies a great majority of the CE that states require for doctor’s yearly license renewals. Many states require a certain mix of COPE (Counsel on Practitioner Education) category B (Ocular Disease) and C (Related Systemic Disease) education courses. In selecting specific courses for each meeting, we are very careful to select the appropriate required mix of category B and C courses to satisfy most state requirements. By following these guidelines, we are able to provide a broad variety of primary care CE focusing on ocular disease, systemic disease and pharmacology.
My Experience as a First Time Attendee
As a 2018 graduate, the process to obtain CE is new to me. I did not know what to expect as a first time attendee at National Vision’s CE symposium, but the doctors that I spoke with only had glowing reviews about how amazing it had been in the past. After arriving, I immediately saw what they were talking about. I was in complete awe from the atmosphere; it I felt like a mini class reunion with friends from my optometry class and upperclassmen from Indiana University.
The experience was spectacular – from the grandiose hotel, to seeing optometrists from all over the country in one location, to connecting with old friends and making new friendships, to getting required CE hours. Best of it all, it was free! My two best friends from my optometry class were also in attendance, and spending time with them was the most memorable moment for me. I stayed for four days and National Vision exceeded my expectations in tailoring each of those days to my needs. After seeing what it takes to put on such a large event full of quality education, I realize how lucky I am to have all of this provided to me by my practice and National Vision without the stresses of using vacation days to meet my requirements, scheduling my own travel, or paying out of my own pocket!
Clinical Pearls: Here are a few interesting clinical lessons I took away from the optometry continuing education courses presented:
The continuing education was of the highest quality and I was able to take away some great clinical lessons in refractive surgery and glaucoma.
According to the PROWL studies, Symptoms and Satisfaction in the LASIK Quality of Life: modern LASIK does not cause dry eyes and some patients even have reported a lower Ocular Surface Disease Index. In other words, dry eye symptoms had decreased. In fact, according to the Three-Year Longitudinal Survey Comparing Visual Satisfaction with LASIK and Contact Lenses: 87% of patients after three years post-LASIK strongly agree that LASIK works better than contact lenses in terms of comfort. Also, some patients experienced reduced night glare. I thought this was interesting, because we are often told that LASIK can cause complications such as dry eye and increased night glare, which can be deterrents to recommending the procedure to patients. I think it is valuable to be aware of all the ongoing research in this arena.
In regards to glaucoma, we learned about new ways to treat glaucoma such as Travaprost punctum plugs and iDose. Similar to punctal plug for dry eyes, the sustained released Travaprost punctum plugs help release Travaprost to lower IOP. In addition to Travaprost punctum plugs, there is a new surgical device called iDose implant which resides in the anterior chamber angle anchored into the scleral tissue just behind the trabecular meshwork that slowly releases Travoprost which helps increase uveoscleral outflow thus lowering the IOP. Having more options to treat glaucoma is always a plus, especially for non-compliant patients or patients who have a difficult time with instilling eye drops.
It is amazing how quickly the profession advances and how much new information is out there. Staying current on new advancements is critical. I am already looking forward to the CE event next year!
My Experience as an 11-Time Attendee
I have seen firsthand the growth in the National Vision Doctor of Optometry network by the number of optometrists that attend the CE meeting. I remember when it felt small and intimate since you knew everyone there. Now we have moved on to much larger venues where all of us can stretch our legs and be comfortable learning new material about our profession. While everyone goes to the event to earn free credits, I think most of us would agree that one of the best reasons to attend is seeing old classmates and ODs we have met at past meetings.
National Vision does a great job of taking care of all our needs, from working with our practices to adjust patient schedule and close the books, to handling our airline and hotel accommodations. Standing in the back of the giant conference room, I reminisce about where it all began for me. Everything was smaller, from the conference hall to the waiting line for check-in. The relationships I have built over the years have endured and make the events feel like a small reunion. Many classmates are part of the National Vision network and seeing them is quite satisfying. It’s a great time to catch up with what they’re up to with their families and future plans.
One of my personal highlights of this event is having the opportunity to interact with leadership. National Vision’s CEO, Reade Fahs, is a great leader who is very approachable. Mr. Fahs is very eager to talk one-on-one with doctors discussing optometry and what’s new in life. A common remark heard from new attendees is how he has this ability to lift us up, recharge our batteries and have us walk away looking forward to our future as a community.
Clinical Pearls: Here are a few interesting clinical highlights I took away from the optometry continuing education presented:
Regardless of practice experience, or years of CE obtained, there is always more to learn to be the best OD I can for my patients. This year we were fortunate to have two great optometrist speakers. I thoroughly enjoyed the lectures on managing ocular pain and ocular infections. It was good to hear the speakers emphasize the use of oral meds to treat certain conditions.
Optometry school warns us all throughout our stay to be very careful with prescribing steroids and oral medications. Some students are downright timid when it comes to using them. I appreciated how the speaker addressed the fear of addiction when using oral pain meds by using his own personal battles with food addiction. It was nice of him to share a portion of his personal life in order to shed some clarity on addiction and how it can control you.
Addiction to pain pills is a serious issue throughout the world today and utmost care when prescribing is needed. However, the speaker encouraged the use of them when appropriate. I liked how he provided specific examples of different schedule drugs and which ones he most often used. Information like this is important for new and seasoned optometrists as it gives them a specific example of what to prescribe and the appropriate dosage. Specifics such as clearly indicating how many pills to Rx and the type of questions to ask patients were very helpful.
The use of oral meds to treat ocular infections was also a welcome sight! The use of Doxycycline for ocular rosacea, meibomian gland dysfunction or even recurrent corneal erosion was discussed. Too often optometrists play it safe and stick to the standard topical meds to address these pathologies rather than using what is actually best. Conditions like preseptal cellulitis, chalazia and hordeolums can and should be treated via systemic oral medications, along with the standard “warm compresses.” The speaker highlighted the use and efficacy of Keflex in treating the aforementioned. Often times I’m given a surprised look when I speak to other ODs regarding my use of Keflex vs. the standard eye drops and compresses. I find it to be quite effective and believe it should be utilized as needed.
Being able to practice “full scope optometry” is the number one concern for most new grads; they don’t want to be limited in their mode of practice. They want to be able to treat the retina, optic nerve, anterior segment as well as refraction, but full scope also means using all of the tools that we have at our disposal – this includes oral medication.
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