A survey of UK optometry trainees’ smoking cessation training

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Lorencatto, F. ; Harper, A. M. ; Francis, J. ; Lawrenson, J. (2016)

Background\ud Smoking is a risk factor for a number of eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and thyroid eye disease. Smoking cessation interventions have been shown to be highly cost-effective when delivered by a range of healthcare professionals. Optometrists are well placed to deliver smoking cessation advice to a wide population of otherwise healthy smokers. Yet optometrists remain a relatively neglected healthcare professional group in smoking cessation research and policy. Surveys of UK medical/nursing schools and of optometrists’ training internationally demonstrate significant deficits in current curricular coverage regarding smoking cessation. This study aimed to identify the extent of smoking cessation training in UK optometry trainees’ undergraduate and pre-registration training.\ud \ud Methods\ud All undergraduate optometry schools in the UK (n = 9) were invited to participate in a web-based survey of their curricular coverage and assessment related to smoking cessation, and of perceived barriers to delivering smoking cessation training. A content analysis of the College of Optometrists Scheme for Registration Trainee Handbook 2014 was conducted to identify competence indicators related to smoking cessation.\ud \ud Results\ud Nine undergraduate optometry schools (100%) responded to the survey. The majority reported dedicating limited hours (0–3) to teaching smoking cessation, and predominantly focused on teaching the harmful effects of smoking (89%). Only one school provides practical skills training for delivering evidence-based smoking cessation interventions, including very brief advice. The majority of schools (78%) reported that they did not formally examine students on their knowledge or skills for supporting smoking cessation, and rated confidence in their graduates’ abilities to deliver smoking cessation interventions as ‘poor’ (78%). Lack of knowledge amongst staff was identified as the key barrier to teaching about smoking cessation support. The pre-registration competency framework does not include any competence indicators related to providing support for quitting smoking.\ud \ud Conclusions\ud There are substantial gaps in the current curricula of UK optometry training, particularly regarding practical skills for supporting smoking cessation. Increased curricular coverage of these issues is essential to ensure trainee optometrists are adequately trained and competent in supporting patients to quit smoking.
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