Career as an Optometrist


Summary

An Optometrist is a medical professional concerned with the eyes and their physical structure, as well as overall vision, visual systems, and visual information processing. While the certification process varies internationally, optometrists are generally qualified to diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the entire visual system, as well as to prescribe medications that will help a patient meet their treatment goals. Even though they are not physicians (like an ophthalmologist is), they are afforded many of the same rights and privileges as other types of doctors.

Optometrists spend most of their time testing the vision systems of their patients. The qualities tested include the ability to focus and coordinate the eye, gauge depth perception, and accurately distinguish between colours. When an optometrist ascertains that a patient has an issue with an aspect of their vision, he or she will prescribe the appropriate treatment for the ailment, from corrective eyewear, to medication and surgery.

Optometrists often may be the first medical professional to recognize this disease in their patients. Glaucoma is a disease of the optical nerve and it is often diagnosed after a battery of vision and pressure tests of the eye, all of which are aimed at identifying the telltale signs of nerve damage. There are a variety of treatments from which an optometrist will choose, based on the specific condition of the patient and nature of the glaucoma. This will range from medication, to drainage implants, to surgery. Often times for glaucoma, the best option for the patient will simply be medication, but the optometrist will always be prepared to take more drastic action if the disease and situation warrants, such as the aforementioned surgical and implant options.

The duties of Optometrists typically includes to perform vision tests and analyze results, diagnose sight problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, and eye diseases, such as glaucoma then to prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other visual aids, and if state law permits, medications. They also perform minor surgical procedures to correct or treat visual or eye health issues and provide treatments such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation. They are also engaged to provide pre- and postoperative care to patients undergoing eye surgery—for example, examining a patient's eyes the day after surgery and to evaluate patients for the presence of other diseases and conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, and refer patients to other healthcare providers as needed.

Work Environment

Optometrists operate in a fast-paced professional environment. Most patient visits can last for no longer than 15 minutes, which is typically all the time required to run the battery of tests, so there is often a high volume of patients that come through an optometrist's doors. Optometrists worked in stand-alone offices of optometry. Optometrists may also work in doctors’ offices, retail stores, and outpatient clinics. Most optometrists work full time. Some work evenings and weekends to accommodate patients’ needs. Optometrists must also interact with government officials, other health care professionals, and the general community throughout their scope of practice.

Entry Level Education

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Optometry (Bachelor of Clinical Optometry), Bachelor of Science (B.Sc).
  • Doctor of Optometry (O.D.).

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