Queens University partner with sight loss charity RNIB

Post date: 
Thursday, 13 June 2019
Northern Ireland
Queens University and RNIB partner for visual awareness training

Following recommendations that visual awareness training be given to all medical professionals, the Royal National Institute of Blind People in Northern Ireland (RNIBNI) and the medical school at Queen’s University of Belfast, have worked together to embed this training into the QUB medical course.

Two new elements have been introduced: Low Vision Awareness Training for all medical students as part of their ophthalmology course, and a more in depth module for a limited number of students called ‘Living with Visual Impairment’.

Over 1400 medical students have now had this Low Vision Awareness Training, facilitated by RNIB’s Eye Clinic Liaison Officers.

Dr Michael Williams, Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Medical Education at QUB and Consultant Ophthalmologist said “Most medical students will not become ophthalmologists, but they understand that they will all encounter patients and relatives of patients with low vision during their careers, whatever area of medicine they are in. Having this training equips them with confidence to professionally and appropriately interact and communicate with people with low vision. Our medical students also learn about the vital role of RNIB’s Eye Clinic Liaison Officers and other statutory and voluntary support services they can refer patients to.

Over 1400 medical students have now had this Low Vision Awareness Training, facilitated by RNIB’s Eye Clinic Liaison Officers.

Alongside this, over 50 medical students have taken the ‘Living with Visual Impairment’ module, designed to take students from the medical aspects of low vision into the inter-professional and personal world beyond, that is faced daily by people with visual impairment. As part of this, students go to the home or workplace of someone with low vision to interview them, and hear firsthand about the ups and downs of their experiences, helping them to better understand the real life impact of sight loss”.

Jonny, third year medical student with QUB said, “Through the training I’ve gained an appreciation of the range of visual problems that can affect patients, and have a better understanding of the support and services available to patients.  I can now use this knowledge and understanding in my future medical practice.”

Angela O’Kane, ECLO Service Manager NI (RNIB), said “Often eye clinic patients can find dealing with the emotional and practical impact of changes to their sight to be overwhelming. People with sight loss are more likely to suffer depression with more than four in 10 people attending low vision clinics suffering from symptoms of clinical depression (DEPVIT, 2016).

Eye clinic staff and volunteers are often the first point of contact for people coping with sight loss and have an important role in providing practical information, emotional support and in signposting to other services.

However, they are often unable to provide the indepth emotional and practical support their patients need due to time constraints. At what can be an emotionally traumatic time, RNIB’s ECLO service can help provide this essential support in clinic when it’s needed most.

They provide those recently diagnosed with an eye condition with the practical and emotional support they need to better understand their diagnosis, discuss the impact the condition may have on their life, and identify the next steps in maintaining their independence.

This can include advice on the potential benefits of registration; useful mobility and daily living aids; making referrals to other voluntary or statutory support services such as RNIB’s counselling or employment services.

We hope this partnership with Queens University will equip medical professionals to ensure patients get the right information and support at the right time, to be able to face the future with confidence.”

If you would like to speak to someone about how a sight loss diagnosis is affecting your life, or that of a family member of friend, contact RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999. Open 8am to 8pm weekdays and 9am to 1pm Saturdays.