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A study of the role and educational needs of ophthalmic specialist nurses

22 July 2021
11 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 14



To explore the current roles, responsibilities and educational needs of ophthalmic specialist nurses (OSNs) in the UK.


A survey of 73 OSNs ranging from band 4 to band 8 was undertaken in May 2018.


73% of OSNs undertake more than one active role, with 59% involved in nurse-led clinics; 63% felt formal learning resources were limited, with 63% reporting training opportunities and 21% reporting time as major barriers to further training. More than 38% emphasised hands-on clinic-based teaching had a greater impact on their educational needs. Some 64% were assessed on their skills annually and 59% felt confident with their skill set.


The Ophthalmic Common Clinical Competency Framework provides a curriculum and assessment tools for OSNs to use as a structure to maintain clinical skills and knowledge. Eye departments should use this as guidance to target learning needs and improve standards of care to meet the changing needs of society.

Rapid changes in clinical practice, patient demands and national targets in the UK have led to ophthalmology departments expanding the roles of ophthalmic specialist nurses (OSNs) (Needham, 2000; Siempis, 2014; Moradi, 2016). OSNs are taking on advanced roles previously only performed by doctors, including intraocular injections (Kirk et al, 2015), preoperative cataract assessment (Kirkwood et al, 2006), corneal collagen cross linking and glaucoma assessment (Slight et al, 2009), oculoplastic minor procedures (Dunlop, 2010), botulinum toxin injections, YAG (yttrium aluminium garnet) laser capsulotomy and emergency eye care triage and examination (Gibbons, 2010; Siempis, 2014).

With a long-term demographic trend of an ageing UK population, there is a growing gap between the demand for ophthalmology services and the available workforce (Lee et al, 2007; Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth), 2018). Broader training for additional responsibilities in expanded roles needs to be consistent between providers to continue to provide safe levels of care.

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