Norwegian Optometric Graduate Program in Refractive Surgery

Rolling an MSc program into an optometry program for a new generation of students.

By Bente Monica Aakre, PhD, and Svein Tindlund, MSc

The University College of Southeast Norway has initiated an English-taught masters of science (MSc) degree as part of its optometry program, and it may be a first for optometry. In the program, students are trained in how to select and educate patients for refractive surgery in an optometry clinic.

TO THE POINT

A Norwegian optometry program enhances student qualifications for identifying patients who may be suited for refractive surgery.

Local optometrists are often the first choice for the public when it comes to testing, diagnosing, and getting advice on how to achieve good vision. Refractive surgery is well established within ophthalmology, and optometrists should know how to select patients who are suitable candidates for refractive surgery and inform them about the possibilities for reduced dependence on glasses and contacts. Optometrists have high credibility in their local markets, and this degree will help them further enhance that reputation.

The 2016 course included 24 students. Portions of the MSc curriculum concerning refractive procedures focused on laser refractive surgery; refractive lens exchange, for the time being, has been left out of the curriculum, as the designers of the course believe that it is better to achieve high competence in one area than to be average in several areas.

The learning objectives for the course include topics other than refractive surgery. As far as refractive surgery education is concerned, learning objectives include the ability to recognize those suited for surgery and rule out those who are not. Students are trained in how to communicate with potential candidates and how to set appropriate expectations from day 1. The focus on practical clinical skills is highlighted in the course, which includes role-playing exercises with students playing the part of potential patients. n

A Comment from Svein Tindlund, MSc

“There is a shift in interest and attitude toward refractive surgery now compared with 15 to 20 years ago,” Svein Tindlund, MSc, told Advanced Ocular Care.

Dr. Tindlund said that the age of incoming optometry students was important in the decision to include an MSc degree in the school’s optometry curriculum. “Optometrists graduating today were born after excimer laser refractive surgery was introduced; they were teenagers when refractive lens exchange with premium cataract lenses was pioneered,” he said. “For this generation of optometrists, refractive surgery is just one more possibility for the patient—and maybe also now, with this MSc program, a career path for themselves.”

Bente Monica Aakre, PhD
• optometrist, head of the department of optometry, radiography, and lighting design, University College of Southeast Norway, Kongsberg, Norway
bentema@usn.no

Svein Tindlund, MSc
• optometrist and lecturer, University College of Southeast Norway
• Kongsberg, Norway
svein.tindlund@gmail.com