Ophthalmic Assistant

Ophthalmic Assistant

The Role of Ophthalmic Medical Assistants

Ophthalmic assistants are the entry level workers of ophthalmic medical personnel, who help ophthalmologist with certain processes. Ophthalmic assistants have many roles that can be categorized into the following: taking patient history, administering tests and evaluations, recording test results and eye measurements, instrument maintenance, patient services, clinical duties, and office work. As they are entry level, the skill level of tasks may not be as advanced, but training is also provided. Many companies have openings that can be filled by either ophthalmic assistants or ophthalmic technicians as the majority are looking for skill level and knowledge.

Ophthalmic assistants help with taking care of paperwork including patient history and medical charts, where they can record visual acuity measurements, record results from a lensometry, refractometry, tonometry, A-scans, HRTs, and other instruments. It is also their job to keep these instruments clean by following procedures like using alcohol wipes to clean specific areas for use. Those with more experience and training may also be asked to administer medication or help in minor surgical procedures. Ophthalmic assistants may also be asked to help with patient services, such as explaining proper procedures for wearing contact lenses. After examinations, tasks such as handling paperwork and helping with prescription needs may also be asked of these medical assistants. It is obvious that anyone considering this career should be able to interact well with others, follow detailed instructions, and handle both medical and administrative duties.

What Ophthalmic Assistants Don’t Do

Ophthalmic assistants are just aides, and many of their tasks are to be done under the supervision of an ophthalmologist or other superior. They are not allowed to give their own medical advice directly to patients, but may repeat an ophthalmologist’s instructions. They cannot diagnose eye conditions or diseases, prescribe any drugs, inject any medication, or perform surgical procedures themselves, however, they can offer their opinions to the ophthalmologist in charge.

Certification, Training, Education

Ophthalmic assistants are not required to have a license to work, nor is it necessary to have certification, although some employees look for those who have these. To become an ophthalmic assistant, an individual can either get an entry level job with an ophthalmologist to receive formal training, or they may attend a clinical ophthalmic assistant program or an ophthalmic assistant program offered at a few colleges and vocational schools. Those who choose to can become a certified ophthalmic assistant by passing an exam offered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (JCAHPO®). Keeping certification requires continuing education credits to ensure the professional growth of ophthalmic assistants.

Ophthalmic Assistant Salary and Work Area

Ophthalmic assistants mostly work for ophthalmologists in private practice, but there are also opportunities in outpatient centers, hospitals, surgical centers, and other medical facilities. They work under ophthalmologists and may be supervised by other individuals including ophthalmic technicians and medical technologists. Ophthalmic assistant salaries will vary from place to place, but range from $18,000 to $50,000 depending on the employer, experience, and job duties. Learn more on job advancement for ophthalmic assistants below.

Advancement for Ophthalmic Assistants

Many individuals obtain a job as a medical assistant as a spring board, for furthering their education and training to become a physician or some higher position themselves. They can use the training and experience to get into medical or optometry school or another health field. The majority of ophthalmic assistants do not remain in the same position, but with more on the job training they can advance to become ophthalmic technicians, ophthalmic medical technologists, office managers or ophthalmic surgical assistants.

Ophthalmic assistants who have gained experience may be promoted or given the title of ophthalmic technician with more advanced training opportunities. From here, they can become certified ophthalmic technicians by meeting the requirements and testing offered by the JCAHPO. To become a certified ophthalmic technician, the individual must be a certified ophthalmic assistant, have a year of work experience under ophthalmologic supervision, earn 12 JCAHPO Group A credits, and pass the COT test. They can then move on to become certified medical technologist or get certification in ophthalmic surgical assisting through a similar process. Other job opportunities exist as well with more experience, possibly working with research, major corporations that are related to optometry, optometry sales rep, and other unique areas.

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