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.



Helena Webb quoted in Optometry Today ‘Patients trust eye contact’

Optometry Today! currently runs an article that reports on a video-based study of GPs that highlights the importance of eye contact during consultations. Helena was contacted by OT to comment on the research findings. The article together with Helena’s comments can be found here:




Optometry CET Communication Skills Workshop: Nov 11th, 4pm – 7pm at King’s College London

Single session seminar:

Communication in the consultation: Understanding different approaches to communication and how they may be applied to activities and challenging scenarios across the optometric consultation.

A successful optometric consultation requires successful communication. The interactions that occur between optometrist and patient are crucial to clinical outcomes as well as patient adherence and satisfaction. Therefore it is highly beneficial to practitioners to maximise their communication skills.

This seminar provides an innovative opportunity for practitioners to deepen their understanding of communication in the consultation, reflect on their own communicative practices and consider a variety of ways to maximise their skills. The content of the seminar draws on video-footage and research findings and promotes peer discussion. Participants will have the opportunity to watch and discuss video footage of recorded encounters as well as to learn about research findings on communication in optometric consultations and discuss their practical implications. During the seminar participants will:

–          Discuss key challenges to successful communication in the consultation, including scenarios they personally find ‘difficult’;

– Learn about and reflect on different patterns of communication and the consequences they can have for the accomplishment of consultation tasks;

– Learn about and reflect on different communicative practices in relation to ‘difficult’ scenarios.

– Discuss methods to maximise their communication skills.

The content of the seminar will focus on 1) obtaining information from the patient and 2) delivering information to the patient. It therefore directly relates to CET core competencies. Participants will be invited to contact the seminar facilitators before the session to let them know their specific areas of interest and this will help determine the particular content of the session. The seminar will be led by researchers from King’s College London, who have conducted a 2 year video-based study of communication in optometric consultations. These seminars form part of a broader collaboration between King’s College London and the College of Optometrists to deliver a communication skills development package for eye care practitioners.

If you are interested in attending the session, please contact

“Professional Gesture” published in Symbolic Interaction

Based on our original ESRC-funded project we have recently published the paper “Engendering Response: Professional Gesture and the Assessment of Eyesight in Optometry Consultations” in Symbolic Interaction.


Many of the procedures undertaken within healthcare require specialized forms of participation that may be unfamiliar, even disturbing, to patients or clients. The practitioner has to encourage and enable participation in the investigation in an appropriate fashion while preserving the structure and integrity of the procedure. In this article, we consider optometry and the deployment of a vision test, known as subject refraction, that provides data to help determine the characteristics of any corrective lens that may be required by clients. The procedure’s ability to establish robust and reliable data relies upon the optometrist’s ability to encourage the client to respond to a series of stimuli without consideration or reflection. That is, the client is required to produce an unwitting response—conduct that might be considered nonsymbolic rather than symbolic. In this article, we also consider the optometrist’s talk and bodily comportment during subjective refraction and how it serves to shape and determine the quality of the client’s response and participation, and in turn to produce reliable test results.

The paper is accompanied by a video-abstract published on the Symbolic Interaction YouTube Channel.


Jargon Buster Cards

In this project we are looking for ways to help eye-care practitioners maximise how they communicate with their patients. Talking to practitioners, trainers and patients we have found that a common issue of concern is the overuse of ‘jargon’. Whilst optometric vocabulary is highly familiar to trained practitioners it is less so to patients, who may have limited knowledge of the eye and eye conditions. If overly technical terms are used to diagnose a condition or recommend a particular intervention, the patient may be left without full understanding of what he/she is being told (and patients are very unlikely to state when they cannot understand something).

Consequently, it is very helpful for eye care practitioners to think carefully about when and how they use technical terms in consultations. To help this, our project team has started to develop ‘jargon buster’ cards. Take a look at this example:

Macular Degeneration

Imagine you have diagnosed a patient with the condition listed at the top of the card. Can you think of a way to explain what the condition is without using any of the words in grey listed below it? Perhaps practise with a colleague and see if he/she can tell what condition you are describing.

Next, look again at the words in grey. Decide which of them are necessary for an accurate description that educates the patient about his/her condition. Think of a jargon free definition of each word.

Finally, practise explaining the condition to a patient again using whichever words in grey you feel are necessary, but including a jargon free definition of each one.

Similarly, you can use the same approach to practise how to explain treatments and interventions. For example:


If you would like to know more about our jargon busting cards or anything about the project, please contact