Background: There are few publications describing what optometrists like about clinical work. The purpose of this paper is to explore what optometrists in practice find satisfying with their work and what they find stressful.
Methods: Sixty Australian optometrists participated in a 30-minute semi-structured telephone or face-to-face interview during the period August 2009 to March 2010. The interviews covered a range of topics related to ergonomics and physical comfort, including three questions related to satisfaction with clinical optometry, job satisfaction and self-perceived work-stress. These data were subject to qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Results: Participants reported that they liked clinical optometry because of work-related factors (for example, clinical challenge) (n = 47, 78 per cent), people-related factors (e.g. helping people) (n = 29, 48 per cent) and relationships with patients (n = 28, 47 per cent). Clinical freedom was the most frequently cited reason for participants liking their current job (n = 18, 30 per cent). Self-employed participants were more likely to value relationships with their patients (Chi-square, p < 0.01). Employee and locum participants were more likely to value relationships with staff (Chi-square, p < 0.05) and colleagues (Chi-square, p < 0.05). There were 32 participants (53 per cent) who perceived their work as stressful, most commonly related to clinical issues (n = 25, 42 per cent), workload demands (n = 20, 33 per cent) and management tasks (n = 15, 25 per cent). Clinical issues were a stressor for employee and locum participants (Chi-square, p < 0.01) and urban practitioners (Chi-square, p < 0.05). Management tasks were a stressor for independently practising participants (Chi-square, p < 0.01).
Conclusion: Understanding what clinical optometrists like and find stressful about their work is important for employers, industry and the profession, as these are key elements of employment satisfaction. The information presented in this paper can be used as a basis for developing quantitative tools for assessing job satisfaction and job stress more extensively in the optometric profession.