Patient Education

Eye Doctor Credentials

Every day thousands of people visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for simple problems like yearly checkups, to more complicated issues including LASIK and cataract removal. What many of these people fail to do is check the credentials of the eye doctors that are diagnosing their eyes, prescribing medication, or performing surgical procedures. Some people expect that just because an eye doctor works in a hospital or clinic setting or has their own practice, these individuals are qualified and licensed to perform the duties stated in their position. This thought process can be wrong, as there are some individuals not licensed or qualified to do their job. This is where state licensing comes in.

States require optometrists and ophthalmologists to be trained through accredited colleges and universities, licensed through rigorous testing and clinical hours, good moral character, and continued education for growth and maintaining necessary skill sets. Some requirements include criminal background checks and the National Practitioner Data Bank. This process helps to ensure that those that take up these positions are qualified to meet the duties and responsibilities that come with being an optometrist or ophthalmologist. This is extremely important for ophthalmologists who perform surgical procedures since their patients’ vision is in their hands almost daily.

There are plenty of different ways to check the credentials of an optometrist or ophthalmologist. One of the surest methods is to look up license information through state license directories. Most states have license verification methods that allow for a quick and easy lookup of a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. The North Carolina Board of Optometry has a license lookup function that is searchable by social security, license number and last name, which brings up license information including any adverse actions. States will also note any violations and list violators including denial of license, suspensions, and disciplinary measures. Consumers may have to email state boards to get specific information on disciplinary actions.

Another way to check credentials is to look for the license certificate and the degree from an accredited school. There are only a few accredited schools that offer degrees for an optometrist or ophthalmologist, and eye specialists definitely would display their degrees and license certificates in a place that can be seen by patients. Taking these steps can help protect consumers from seeing an eye doctor who is not licensed for a reason like wrong diagnosis of an eye condition.

Disciplinary Actions and Filing Complaints

All states have procedures in place that allow for consumers to submit complaints or report any violations of state regulations. Most states have online complaint forms that can be filled out, emailed, or submitted through regular mail that generally requires information about the person filing the complaint, the professional who is the target of the complaint, and a statement about the complaint. The state board responsible for licensing looks into these reports and takes proper actions to ensure that licensed individuals are competent in all aspects regarding their fields. Here are three examples of disciplinary actions taken by different state boards.

The first is for an infraction where the optometrist prescribed a medication for eye pain which was over the limit of authority to do so. Part of the filing can be read here.

The second is for an optometrist who failed to diagnose retinal detachment in a patient which resulted in a malpractice lawsuit. Part of this filing can be found here.

The last is an action from the Oregon Board of Optometry in a case against an unlicensed optometrist who lied about graduating from a certain optometry school, and represented himself as an optometrist through eye exams, medication prescriptions, and other methods.The filing can be read here.

The eyes are one of the most important senses, so don’t trust just anyone for exams and other medical needs.


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