The Optometric Profession

Optometrists (O.D. s/optometrist), America’s primary eye care providers, are the frontlines of vision and eye care. Optometrist doctors are qualified health care professionals and are widely recognized as eye doctors under Medicare. They examine, diagnose, treat and manage vision and eye conditions.

Eye doctors generally order glasses or contact lenses after completing a course in ophthalmology, which can be finished as quickly as a few weeks. Then they become an optometrist. There are no college degrees for this profession. They are well-trained to prescribe medications under the guidance of medical professionals. In some states, they are also authorized to give injections under the supervision of a doctor.

Some states require doctors of optometry to have specific training, although many states allow them to practice with no formal education or training. In some cases, state legislation exempts optometry from standard licensing requirements. Optometrist doctors can prescribe, order and interpret eyeglasses or contact lenses for patients. In some areas, they are also trained to provide vision care, such as preparing and providing eye exams. They can also perform therapeutic procedures, such as eye exercises and the fitting of spectacles or contact lenses. But, most optometrists can only perform basic eye health care, such as providing basic examination, taking tests and documenting results.

Most Americans who wish to become licensed optometrists need to pass a board exam. This exam, sometimes called the optometry major, is a combination of coursework from previous years and clinical experience. The exam may be taken individually or in a series of four years. After completion, doctors can take the NCLEX-PN (optometry licensing examination) to become certified. At that point, they are allowed to treat patients with some surgical procedures.

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Most states require optometrists to have at least a master’s degree in order to practice, while a few states allow optometrists to take an associate’s degree instead. Either way, optometrists must pass a vision test in order to treat patients. The patient must first have had his or her eyes tested by an accredited eye doctor, and then the optometrist is allowed to prescribe glasses or contacts. Once a patient gets glasses or contacts, the optometrist is the person who should be seen in order to change the settings on the eyeglass or to change the shape of it. He or she should keep a copy of the prescription and can show it to a customer if he or she notices a problem.

Some states, such as Illinois, have further restrictions on optometrists’ practices. In those states, optometrists cannot conduct primary vision care, meaning that they cannot prescribe corrective lenses, glasses, contacts, or laser surgery. In addition, primary health care providers cannot give out prescriptions for medications unless the patient has already been given a prescription for those items. Optometrists cannot give hearing aids or perform any other kind of corrective eye surgery. That means that optometrists in Illinois are not allowed to write prescriptions for children under the age of 18, nor can they prescribe birth control pills.

If you are interested in becoming an optometrist, it is important that you take college classes that prepare you well for this rewarding career. Some states, such as Illinois, require students to pass a vision examination in order to get licensed, so make sure that you are up to date on Illinois’ regulations before you attend school there. Your optometry school should also offer you internship programs that will help you gain valuable experience while you are studying. These programs will not only help you learn more about the practice of optometry, but will also help you get into graduate school and build a network of colleagues who can help you in your future practice.

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It’s important to note that many doctors choose to go on to become ophthalmologists, which is a much higher level of practice than optometry. Optometrists can diagnose and treat eye problems, and prescribe medications for those who need them, but ophthalmologists can diagnose and treat diseases of the eyes and perform surgery on eye disorders. For these reasons, the employment opportunities for ophthalmologists are vastly different than the ones that exist for optometrists. Fortunately, Illinois is one of the few states that actually require graduates to get trained in a specific field of optometry before they can apply for employment. Whether you want to work in Chicago, in New York, or anywhere else in the country, you can be certain that there are opportunities available to you as an optometrist.

By Colleen