Communication Skills in Optometry (free material)

A few years ago the College of Optometrists has published Communication Skills material for optometry that is based on our joint ESRC funded Knowledge Transfer Project (2013-14).

The material can be accessed on this website.



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Are you interested in Communication and Optometric Practice? #guidelines #CET #sociology #optometry cc @esrc

from the website of the College of Optometrists

The practical work of the optometrist 2: communication skills in optometry

In 2009, an ESRC funded project ‘Assessing Eye Sight and Ocular Health: The Practical work of optometrists’ was undertaken to investigate how optometrists conduct eye examinations and how their findings were communicated to patients.  The project involved a detailed study of the practices of eye care in the UK and revealed the interactional practices that optometrists rely on to assess clients’ state of sight and eye health.

Following on from this, The practical work of the optometrist 2 was a Knowledge Exchange project that used the findings of the original study to create a communication skills information for optometry students, optometric practitioners, trainers and organisations.

Project outputs

The project produced the following materials, which will be of interest to those wishing to look at how communication affects optometric practice.

The material can be downloaded here.


Distance Vision Test in Practice

The Distance Vision Test with its letter chart at the centre, probably is most emblematic of optometric consultations. It involves a client sitting on a chair who encouraged by the optometrist reads lines of letters from a standardised chart. At the end of the test, the optometrist uses the reading performance of the client to determine an initial score for her or his ability to see in the distance. The score often is the starting point for a later test, the Subjective Refraction, that we have written about previously.

Despite the pervasiveness of the Distance Vision Test little is known of the interaction between optometrist and client that leads to the determining of the test score. We have analysed video-recordings of Distance Vision Tests and reveal the professional skill and competence that optometrist use to arrive at the test score. This skill and competence involves in particular a sensitivity to changes in clients’ reading behaviour. The related paper on this has been published (in English) in a Special Issue of the German sociology journal Soziale Welt. It can be found here.

Research paper on openings in optometric consultations

As part of the ESRC funded project The Practical Work of the Optometrist Helena Webb, Christian Heath, Dirk vom Lehn, Will Gibson and Bruce Evans have published an article concerned with the opening of optometric consultations in the journal Research on Language and Social Interaction. The paper particularly explored the sensitivity clients display to the use of the word ‘problem’ in the opening questions of the history taking.

The Problem With “Problems”: The Case of Openingsin Optometry Consultations


This article contributes to conversation analytic understanding of openings in health-care consulta-tions. It focuses on the case of optometry: a form of health-care practice in which an optometristconducts checks of a patient’s vision and eye health. Patients are advised to attend regularly for rou-tine assessments and can also request a specific appointment at any time. Analysis of a corpus of 66 consultations shows what happens when the optometrist’s opening question solicits the client’s“problems” with their eyes. We find three types of patient response. Patients who have requested aspecific appointment (most often) report a problem with their eyes and establish a problem-purposeencounter. Patients attending for a routinely timed appointment either report no problems and estab-lish a routine-assessment purpose, or if they do have a problem, they delay reporting it or downplay it.We track through what happens subsequently. The findings have practical implications for diagnosisand treatment.