This paper discusses a collaboration between sociologists and optometrists that involved, first, an investigation of communication and interaction in eye examinations and, second, a transformation of the findings into assessable impact. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how from the start of this project close cooperation between academics and practitioners has paved the way for the generation of academic contributions and impact on the teaching and training of optometrists. The authors also briefly discuss how their cooperation has continued since the original research and impact projects to address further issues of relevance to both academics and practicing optometrists.
This research project was developed to maximise the impact of the research by creating a cooperative relationship between social scientists and optometrists. As the research produced its first findings, the team began to create teaching and training material to help optometrists improve their communication skills. The research project was followed by an college of optometrists ESRC (College of Optometrists co-funded) funded Knowledge Exchange project (KEP) that involved members of the research team, the College of Optometrists (CoO) and practicing optometrists. Together, the authors discussed the research finding and how they could be turned into practical impact, such as educational material, of use for optometrists and those teaching and training optometrists.
The focus of our research has been on the opening of eye examination and on the production of a small number of tests conducted to assess patients’ vision. Future research will include a broader variety of tests and particularly explore the closing of eye examinations as here optometrists who are primarily concerned with clinical questions begin to hand over patients to the commercial arm of the practice. Findings from the extension of the collaboration of social scientists and academics will lead to the advancement of teaching and training material published in professional magazines and offered online to the members of the CoO.
The assessable impact developed from the research findings includes articles and assessments published in professional magazines, workshops delivered at optometry conferences, courses on communication in eye examinations taught at university and an online course for members of the CoO. These activities allow practicing optometrists to collect professional development points (CPD) required to continue practicing as optometrists. Based on the KEP, the authors continued to produce CPD material and together with the CoO developed a credit-bearing online course for the College’s members that within the first year had an enrolment of almost 600 optometrists nine months after its publication.
The research and impact case have been used to develop teaching and training material that practicing optometrists use to improve their communication and interaction with patients. Thus, the cooperation between social scientists and optometrists has been effective in contributing to the improvement of a critical health service. Moreover, the project has demonstrated how the close cooperation between social scientists and practitioners in the development and undertaking of a research project can be a powerful way to ensure the practical and social impact of research.
The originality of this paper is grounded in the close cooperation between social scientists and practicing optometrists already at inception of the research project. This cooperation underpins the generation of contributions to academic discourse in the social sciences, such as discussions on interaction in health services, and of practical and social implications. The authors have experienced the cooperation between social scientists and (practicing) optometrists not only as beneficial to the development of assessable impact but also as a project utterly enjoyable and rewarding to all members of the team.
The authors would like to thank the organisations that have funded the original research, the ESRC (ESRC RES-062-23-1391), and the ESRC and the College of Optometrists (ES/K005588/1) for their support.
vom Lehn, D., Allen, P.M., Webb, H., Evans, B.J.W., Bowen, M. and Dobrzycki, H. (2022), "Impacting communication in optometry: enhancing health-service experiences", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 No. 9, pp. 2546-2557. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-02-2022-0130
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