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Purpose and Mission
Optometrists test the vision of clients, diagnose visual and optical problems, and prescribe spectacles, contact lenses and various optical aids. These professionals are trained to perform vision tests to see if clients need glasses, as well as assess the eyes for symptoms of glaucoma, diabetes or high blood pressure. They typically confirm ocular health and visual function by a check of visual pathways, visual fields, eye movements, freedom of vision and intraocular pressure.
When an optometrist diagnoses a problem she feels needs medical or surgical attention, the patient is usually referred to a general medical practitioner or an ophthalmologist. Some optometrists have had additional training to earn a therapeutic endorsement of their registration so they can prescribe medications to treat a number of eye conditions.
Optometrists can choose to specialize in a specific area of vision care, including contact lens practice, low vision, sports vision, children’s vision, or consulting.
Although the vision care business is increasingly corporate in Australia (56% of Australian optometry practices were corporate owned in 2015), many optometrists still work for themselves in private practice, and do not have a direct supervisor. Those who are employees of a vision care business typically report to a senior optometrist or vision care outlet manager.
Those optometrists who work in private practice typically have direct supervisory responsibilities, including training and evaluating other members of their healthcare team.
You must complete a minimum of a four-year training program to qualify to work as an optometrist, although some programs that include an undergraduate degree may take up to seven years.
Optometrists must spend at least one year in a supervised clinical internship working directly with patients after finishing their academic training.
Responsibilities of an Optometrist
The primary responsibility of an optometrist is to perform eye examinations to diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments to address these problems. Specific duties typically include prescribing eye glasses, vision therapy, various optical aids, medicated eye drops or other treatments. Also keep in mind that optometrists are required to maintain accurate records of the prescriptions and treatments of their patients.
Of note, a significant number of optometrists today work in retail settings, and many also have a sales role at their workplace.
Last but not least, optometrists also refer patients to other healthcare providers when they find symptoms that suggest there might be a serious underlying medical problem.