"Vision Technician's course ideal for developing countries"
By Sister Hamwiinga
The vision technician's course, designed by L V Prasad Eye Institute, is meant for persons who can work in and head a vision centre. It is especially meant for teaching refraction and prescription of spectacles.
My name is Sister Hamwiinga, I am a qualified general nurse in Zambia. Having worked for more than three years assisting in the eye care department, 1 thought of doing a course in eye care. I read about the vision technician's course on the Internet; it sounded so good and ideal for my setting.
I had earlier applied for a community eye health course in London but could not join it because of lack of money and sponsors. In any case, I needed a hands-on type of training where I could learn how to handle and treat patients, and do refraction. With VISION 2020's aim to eliminate blindness, my country did some strategic planning. I was part of the team and got sponsorship for training as a vision technician.
In view of the great need for eye care workers in my country, for general and district hospitals, there is need for people to train in short but extensive courses. A vision technician is one who trains extensively within a short time and gets back to work. And the course is actually cost-effective.
During my training at L V Prasad's Bausch and Lomb School of Optometry I thought I would never endure. It calls for perseverance. Due to language problems, I was posted in LVP for most of my practical exposure. It was hard to manage. LVP has a big number of other cadres for training in different fields — ophthalmologists, optometrists, fellows; a vision technician is the lowest cadre and for this reason it's very hard to sit and see a patient. Satisfaction of a patient coupled with so many training cadres makes it difficult for a vision technician to get hands-on practical training. More so with a language problem!
Nonetheless I had the chance to see what I needed to learn. You really need to persevere to get a chance. In general, people were very nice to me, but I found it strange that people get so busy that they even seem to forget you, even if you shared the same bus and regularly greeted them. In my place greeting is the best you can ever do for a colleague at the start of the day. But here most of my hellos (or 'hi' as is commonly said) went unanswered, much to my embarrassment, 'coz the person next to me would think that I was greeting a stranger! Even in the examining room, you would remain unnoticed all day if you don't assist, as people are simply too busy even to know who stands beside them.
"Where do you come from?" was the commonest question I answered, without any prior greeting.
At the end of my six months of practical exposure I had managed to do a slit lamp examination, refraction, and ophthalmoscopy. I was taught how to do an A scan and many other things. I had a chance to observe what goes on in the biomedical department.
I go back home to do the basics of the job of an optometrist. The expectations from my country and hospital are high and I shall have to meet them. I am an essential worker in eye care delivery in my country. My setting is not in a Vision Centre, but in the general hospital where I will head the department of ophthalmology.
There is an obligation to take special care in training international students from countries like mine, because when they go back they should perform well as 'mini optometrists'. With good and sufficient practice a vision technician can perform really well. Some optometrists managed to say (to me), "Sorry we didn't do much to help you. Are you feeling confident enough?" To me it was like saying to a dead body, "May his soul rest in peace," when you never took care of him while he was alive.
I will be the first vision technician for Zambia, it is the same for my two friends from Papua New Guinea. I appreciate the services of M Srinivas (course coordinator), who worked hard to make us understand and be comfortable. I thank everybody who contributed to my training and the management for designing this course. It's brief, and ideal for places where eye care is on the verge of waking up.
(Sister Hamwiinga was sponsored by Operation Eyesight Universal for the government of Zambia)