Find out about our externships for final-year Optometry students including how they work, and what they mean for students, mentors, practices and more.

What is an externship?

Externship is a three-week ‘hands-on’ experience for final-year students, in which they gain further experience in the direct examination and management of patients away from the confines of the University clinics.

Where desired, the three weeks can be broken up so that the student attends more than one practice (e.g. when a practice is keen on taking part, but cannot host the student for the full three weeks).

Optometrist mentors agree to personally supervise the student during their externship, which involves being available to check the ocular health of every patient that the student sees. Optometrist mentors also complete an evaluation based on a pre-existing template at the end of the student’s externship.

How do they work?

If you have agreed to take a student for an externship, we ask you to complete an Externship Mentoring Agreement.

A final-year student is then allocated to your practice for part or all of their three-week externship period.

Each student is covered by indemnity insurance while visiting your practice and signs a Professionalism and Confidentiality Agreement prior to visiting your practice.

Students are assessed throughout their externships by their supervising optometrist mentors.

Following the externship we ask mentors to complete an evaluation of the student, based on a pre-existing template. Students also complete an e-log of what they see and observe while on externship, which is submitted to the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the end of their externship.

What does the commitment mean for the practice?

Commitment from practice mentors can be for just part of the three-week externship period, or for the entire three weeks. We request that externship mentors allow time in their own daily schedules to closely supervise their host student.

In particular, this involves the following:

  • Endeavouring to ensure that the student performs approximately 30 supervised full eye examinations (also known as comprehensive eye examinations or CEEs) or the pro rata equivalent for split-week externships. To clarify, we consider a CEE to be an exam in which the student collects, collates and analyses data for a patient which the student then uses to produce a management plan for that patient.
  • Checking the ocular health and any other clinical findings of every patient that your student examines so that you may provide appropriate feedback to the student. 
  • Checking in general terms that the student’s e-log matches the patients they have seen and observed (we don’t ask for a fine-tooth comb approach with this).
  • Completing the student externship evaluation and returning it to the Practicum Placement Co-ordinator within a week of the externship ending.
  • Letting the Practicum Placement Co-ordinator know immediately if you have any issues, concerns or questions during the externship period and/or if you become unable to fulfil the tasks as agreed to above.

What does an externship mean for students?

Students participating in externship are exposed to learning experiences which may not be available within the University of Auckland Eye Clinic and which will help prepare them for entry to the profession.

Benefits include:

  • Externship offers students the opportunity to undertake supervised consultations with patients out in the professional community. As a result, students gain a different experience to that of our University clinics, through being part of the real‐world practice of optometry.
  • Students are able to observe how all members of the team in the practice communicate with patients and with each other, and gain experience in working with the general public, including a wide range of demographics. 
  • Students have the chance to examine and observe a range of interesting cases.

We hope and intend that externship provides a good preparatory experience for students prior to their going out into practice after they graduate.

What experience do students already have?

Students participating in externship have had the following experience at the University of Auckland Optometry Clinic and other external placements as part of their Part 4 and Part 5 studies:

  • Performed all the clinical procedures associated with a comprehensive eye examination under supervision of an optometrist, including o routine dilated fundus examination
  • Performed other clinical procedures under the direct supervision of an optometrist, including o gonioscopy o pachymetry o ocular coherence topography o lacrimal lavage o foreign body removal on indication
  • Undertaken guided practical experience in the therapeutic management of ocular disease 
  • Fitted a limited number of patients with contact lenses
  • Applied their dispensing skills, including recommendation of the most suitable options to meet patients’ visual needs
  •  Studied all aspects of clinical optometry in lectures, labs and internal clinics in Part 4, a summer clinic rota known as Part 4.5, and early Part 5 
  • Undertaken workshops in communication skills, including o cultural competence

What are the benefits to mentors and practices?

Externship mentors are offered an invitation to become an Honorary Teaching Fellow with the University of Auckland. As an Honorary Teaching Fellow you are accorded:

  • Full access to the extensive resources that the University of Auckland library offers, including all of its electronic resources
  • Use of the title “Honorary Teaching Fellow” affiliated with the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Auckland
  • Preferential and cost-reduced access to Continuing Professional Development events within the School of Optometry & Vision Science 
  • Use of the following phrase on your website and similar, should you wish it: “Our practice provides teaching services for the University of Auckland's School of Optometry and Vision Science for their Bachelor of Optometry degree”
  • Your support is recognized publicly on the School of Optometry and Vision Science website and a video noticeboard at the entrance to the School of Optometry and Vision Science. You have the opportunity to generally evaluate the possible effect of any additional employee or partner on your practice – i.e. whether this would be a viable option in the future or not. You have the chance to assess particular student optometrists as prospective employees for the future. 

Note: this is an option; there are no expectations whatsoever that you will take students on as employees in the future. You also have a chance to experience our students’ enthusiasm and new knowledge!

What do past externship mentors say?

“I greatly enjoyed having the student with me, and consider her to be a very competent optometrist, who has a great affinity with her patients.”

“The student was a pleasure to work with and she built a good personal rapport with all the team members. I would love her to work here again at any time in the future.”

“She was a great candidate and we really enjoyed having her here.”

“We scored a new worker from this. The student is expected to join our team in the new year.”

“… sense of joy to be able to teach clinical pearls.” “Learning experience can work both ways. Interesting to see where the students and the curriculum are up to.”

“It helps the store team members to assist the growth of optometrist students and to work with them. Sharing the knowledge and understanding the needs of future graduates helps us to prepare for new graduates.”

“Hones my skill as an optometrist. Rewarding to see the grad develop over the extern. Chance to learn something from the grads.”

“I was extremely impressed with her, and am hoping that she will accept my job offer that I made.”