Raising the bar on optometric education

Raising the bar on optometric education

Accreditation standards customized for new optometric degree programs help keep the level of optometric education high, and ultimately, the skillset of future colleagues, as well.

"These new standards ... will significantly enhance the council's ability to evaluate new programs."

Adopted in January 2014 by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE)—the only accrediting body for professional optometric degree programs, optometric residencies and optometric technician programs in the United States and Canada—the new accreditation standards ensure that all future and newly proposed schools must meet stricter and more detailed standards for evaluation.

New professional optometric degree programs applying for initial accreditation must now meet all components of eight updated standards before receiving preliminary approval of pre-accreditation status to move forward. These revisions came as a result of several new program applications received in recent years after nearly two decades had passed since the last new program approached the ACOE.

J. Bart Campbell, O.D., ACOE chair, says promulgating new accreditation standards isn't something done overnight, and took more than a year for the Professional Optometric Degree Committee to develop and review with insight from various segments of the profession and review of other health accreditors.

"These new standards are written specifically to apply to programs that are in their formative stage and will significantly enhance the council's ability to evaluate new programs," Dr. Campbell says.

Maintaining high standards for new programs
Essentially, the new standards reflect outcome measures and objectives that proposed programs would have to meet for initial accreditation. Previous standards were based on program performance—of which new programs would have no metrics to proceed, Dr. Campbell says.

The updates offer substantial upgrades in how ACOE evaluates programs, but three standards in particular were significantly bolstered, Dr. Campbell says, including:

  • Detailed curriculum requirements to improve quality of education;

  • Requirements for faculty; and,

  • Strict measures for developing substantial clinic management and patient care policies.

These new standards help ensure well-educated and fundamentally sound graduates entering the profession. The ACOE looks to continually review processes and standards, and make changes when necessary to make sure programs meet the rigorous accreditation standards, Dr. Campbell says.

"And the ultimate product will be practitioners whom fellow ODs will be proud to have join the profession."

December 22, 2014

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