An optometrist assistant is specially trained in assisting the optometrist, and helps to provide full-scope optometric care to patients. Optometrists can offer a wider range of services in a more effective and efficient manner with the help of assistants. Assisting is a gratifying and stimulating career choice, since they make a significant difference in people’s daily lives. The OA also helps the optometrists provide exemplary health care services.
Optometric assistants work with people of all ages and gender, from all walks of life, from infants to seniors, including the differently abled. In the health care environment, the assistants and patients rarely deal with blood, death or pain. The ultimate focus daily is to keep eyes as healthy as possible and provide clarity of vision. In optometric practice, there is never a dull moment. Assisting is deeply satisfying, fun and challenging.
Responsibilities of assistants are varying, and could include reception handling, telephone answering, preliminary testing of patients, training patients to use contact lenses, adjusting and repairing eyeglasses, advising patients on frame and lens selection, teaching low vision patients to use special devices, helping children in visual skills practice and chair side assisting of the optometrist.
The OAC or Optometric Assistant Course has long-term goals. This is to improve the efficiency and quality of vision care. This is done by upgrading the knowledge of assistants and making them valued and highly trained personnel.
The syllabus has been designed for providing the participants with proper understanding of the fundamental principles of assisting. Assistants gain an in-depth knowledge of the various techniques, procedures and equipment needed to function efficiently and smoothly in the practice of optometry. This course has to be completed in a year from the date of enrollment. Upon successful completion of the study, a certificate is issued to the participant.
There are several benefits to the program. The OAC helps the optometric practice get highly trained expert optometric assistants. This improves the efficiency and quality of patient care, while fostering greater pride and confidence in the high level of performance. Educated and motivated assistants can be ensured of greater longevity of employment, while encouraging prospective or new employees to work towards a goal by bettering themselves. The program also enhances the standardization and effectiveness of in-office training programs.
Graduates are granted certification status from the respective Association of Optometrists. This is a certificate worth framing. The recipient has the right to use the title of the Certified Optometric Assistant and its initials, COA, when he or she is employed by an optometrist and working in a practice.
For enrolling in the Optometric Assistant Course, it is required that the candidate be currently employed in an optometric practice and working in the practice of an oculist. During the entire study, the OA must continue to be employed. The course is most suitable for assistants who have one year of experience at the minimum. Candidates with less than a year’s experience may also register, however, the optometrist who is sponsoring the candidate, may have to spend more time mentoring such individuals.
The OAC is a remote learning course, with most of the practical knowledge coming from the office experience of the supervising optometrist and his guidance. The assistant can build his framework of knowledge with the course material provided. Integration of the practical and academic aspects of this program comes from the guidance provided by the oculist.
The employing optometrist becomes an integral part of the program by his participation. Whenever the OA finds it difficult to understand, the oculist should be ready to explain the necessary techniques and concepts. In addition, the OA is required to perfect his or her clinical skills, which the oculist must monitor. The course material includes a Required Skill Checklist, which the supervising optometrist has to sign for ensuring the required skills are reviewed at the practice.
There are four modules in the Optometric Assistant Course. Each module has its major topics and learning objectives. The assignments and study plan are based on these learning objectives. The course binder and textbooks cover all the required reading materials. A mandatory 3-day workshop is included in the course. A few prescribed textbooks are necessary for the participant for reference, and these may have to be purchased unless already available in the office.
Each module has its own assignment, which facilitate the learning process. They also assess the assistant’s abilities and knowledge in the field of optometry. The assistant has to mail the assignments within the scheduled dates to the National Director who grades them and returns them back to the optometrist assistant along with comments.