An optometrist examines, diagnoses, and treats the eyes and any problems that the patient may suffer in areas of the visual system. For instance, checking for vision problems such as astigmatism or glaucoma. They write prescriptions for contact lenses or eyeglasses and perform minor surgery to treat or correct eye health issues. Optometrists treat patients of all ages but some may choose to specialize in children or other area of specialty, like research in optometry colleges.
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How to Become an Optometrist
An optometrist requires a Doctor of Optometry Degree (O.D.) and receive a license to practice in their state. The program to achieve the O.D. degree takes four years to complete and an aspirant usually has previously obtained a bachelor’s degree with a pre-medical or biological science background.
A student hoping for admission into the O.D. Program must have finished 3 years of postsecondary education with courses in chemistry, biology, physics, zoology, math, and English. The aspirant must take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) that tests the applicant in physics, science, quantitive reasoning, and reading comprehension.
The O.D. Program also requires both supervised clinical and classroom learning. Once the student has completed the program and achieved the Doctor of Optometry Degree, some go on to complete a residency of 1 year to get further training in a specialized area of interest, like ocular disease or family practice or other area of specialty.
Job Description of an Optometrist
An optometrist examines the eyes of a patient and tests for poor vision problems and any eye disease that may be present. They prescribe contact lenses or eyeglasses when necessary. They perform low-vision rehabilitation or vision therapy, as well as performing minor eye surgery in the case of eye health issues.
An optometrist examines a patient’s eye before and after surgery (pre-and post-op) and provides care to the person. He or she would refer a patient to other health care professionals if an underlying disease (such as diabetes) is found. They must educate people about eye health care, like the negatives of smoking on the eyesight.
An optometrist should be skilled in decision making and be detail oriented. They should be skilled in speaking and have interpersonal skills as well.
Optometrist Career Video Transcript
While their iconic testing device (known as a phoropter) and the rows of ever-shrinking letters on a vision test may look like something out of Victorian times, in reality, optometrists use state-of-the-art science and technology to examine patients’ vision. In addition to diagnosing sight problems, optometrists prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision, and they may perform minor surgeries. They also diagnose and treat eye diseases or injuries and manage other eye disorders.
Optometrists rely on interpersonal skills to help patients feel at ease and respond effectively to vision testing. At vision check-ups, they counsel patients on how broader health care affects eyesight, and promote good eye health practices. The accuracy of their prescription relies both on their technical skills and a clear understanding between doctor and patient. Most optometrists work in offices of optometry. Others work in doctors’ offices, optical goods stores, or are self-employed.
Optometrists work full-time, and may work weekends or evenings to accommodate their patients’ needs. Optometrists must complete a 4-year Doctor of Optometry program and be licensed to practice in a particular state. They must also pass the National Board of Examiners in Optometry exam. Doctoral program applicants must have completed at least 3 years of college that include courses in biology, chemistry, physics, English and math.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Optometrist.
National Center for O*NET Development. 29-2081.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.