“Seeing the difference”: Comparing tertiary ophthalmology education in regional and metropolitan Australia

William O. C. K. Choy, Sascha Spencer, Jenny Hepschke, Helen Zhang, Dylan S. Kalas, Minas Coroneo, Boaz Shulruf, Ashish Agar

Meeting:  2022 RANZCO


Date:      -

Session Title: OTHER

Session Time:      -

Purpose: The importance and prevalence of ophthalmology teaching has been minimised in medical curricula world- wide. This paper serves to evaluate the perceptions of junior medical officers and final-phase medical students on. ophthalmology teaching in rural locations. It will also serve to examine their self-confidence in key International Council of Ophthalmology-defined knowledge and skill areas, and offer comparisons to a control metropolitan cohort.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of participants at consenting universities and hospitals in rural Australia was conducted. The questionnaire was modelled on and complements previously published research concerning a metropolitan cohort (Zhang, 2018). Factor analysis was performed on confidence scores.

Results: Eighty-seven final-phase students were included in Phase One data collection. Phase Two will significantly increase the study population size. Lectures were the most-common teaching modality offered (56.4%), while small-group clinical tutorials were most preferred (50%) and mean teaching time was 11.37 hours. Mean confidence in ophthalmology-specific skills and knowledge for rural students was low (rural knowledge: 2.39/5, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.16 – 2.59; rural skills: 2.73/5, 95% CI = 2.25 – 2.95). Preliminary results indicate deficits in knowledge exist between studied rural and metropolitan cohorts (metropolitan knowledge: 2.88/5, 95% CI = 2.80–2.96; metropolitan skills: 2.66/5, 95% CI = 2.55–2.76). Given the opportunity, participants voiced frustration with online learning and existing deficiencies in ophthalmology teaching.

Conclusion: Rurally-based junior medical officers and final-phase students experience unique pedagogical challenges. Initial results suggest that, alarmingly, rural cohorts are offered less specialist teaching, and possess lower confidence in ophthalmic knowledge than their metropolitan-based counterparts.