skip to main content

Work-related musculoskeletal discomfort and injuries in Australian optometrists

Long, Jennifer Anne, Optometry & Vision Science, Faculty of Science, UNSW


Check for online availability

  • Title:
    Work-related musculoskeletal discomfort and injuries in Australian optometrists
  • Author/Creator/Curator: Long, Jennifer Anne, Optometry & Vision Science, Faculty of Science, UNSW
  • Subjects: Australia; Work-related discomfort; Optometrists; Ergonomics; Musculoskeletal; Health and safety; Small business; Education; Guidelines; Professional development; Job satisfaction
  • Resource type: Thesis
  • Type of thesis: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2012
  • Supervisor: Stapleton, Fiona, Optometry & Vision Science, Faculty of Science, UNSW; Burgess-Limerick, Robin, Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre, Sustainable Minerals Institute, University of Queensland, Australia
  • Language: English
  • Print availability: T/2012/587 (Please speak to a staff member at the Library Help Zone)
  • Permissions: This work can be used in accordance with the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
    Please see additional information at

  • Description: Introduction: Work-related injuries and discomfort have been reported in Australian optometrists. More severe injury and discomfort may result in a reduction in work hours, task substitution or practitioner attrition from the workforce. Purpose: This thesis describes work-related discomfort reported by Australian optometrists and proposes strategies for reducing discomfort in the profession. Methods: The investigation consisted of multiple stages including an online questionnaire based on the Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaires, telephone interviews, on-site observations and surveys. Participants included optometrists in clinical practice, undergraduate optometry students and optometry teachers. Results: Females, young optometrists and those conducting a high number of consultations per day have a higher risk of reporting work-related discomfort. The risk of severe discomfort (discomfort present for more than 30 days) is increased by performing repetitive tasks and continuing to work while injured. The most common sites of discomfort reported were the neck, shoulder and lower back. The most commonly cited tasks contributing to discomfort were using the phoropter and the slit lamp. Senior optometry students reported similar patterns of discomfort to experienced practitioners and were more likely to rate patient comfort more important than personal comfort when performing clinical procedures. The on-site observations highlighted vast differences in consultation room designs, types of equipment and style of practice which impact on comfort. This potentially makes it difficult to develop general guidelines for clinical optometrists. Interview participants were open to receiving information on how to improve their comfort at work, but this information should be disseminated via multiple communication channels to cater for different learning styles. A participatory ergonomics approach may also work if modified to ensure acceptance in a small business healthcare setting. Conclusion: Work-related physical discomfort in optometrists can be reduced by addressing job, equipment and consultation room design and by providing guidelines to optometrists in clinical practice, e.g., written and online information packages and professional development at conferences. There is also a role for raising awareness of physical comfort issues in optometry students so that future members of the profession develop good working habits before it affects their ability to practice.

Searching Remote Databases, Please Wait