Although optometrist assistants are not required to complete a training program, many optometrists' and ophthalmologists' offices will look favorably upon those who do. Many community colleges and vocational schools provide programs in optometric assisting and these programs lead to a certificate or an associate's degree. Students usually participate in a clinical experience at an optometrist's office, and the program may prepare them for certification by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO).
Courses focus on eye anatomy, vision testing, contact lenses, frame fitting and dispensing. Some programs cover topics such as front office procedures and patient billing.
Here are concepts generally covered in optometrist assistant courses:
- Refractive errors
- Visual acuity
- Frame types and parts
- Contact lenses
- Visual pathway
Overview of Optometrist Assistant Courses
Ophthalmic Testing Course
This course provides instruction and practical experience in the testing procedures often used in ophthalmic practice. Students learn how to pre-test patients for depth perception, visual acuity, color vision, visual axis deviation and pupillary reflexes. Other skills taught include taking patient case histories, pupil evaluations and the administration of specialized tests, such as those used for keratometry and blood pressure. Depending upon the program, students may learn how to test patients for medical conditions such as glaucoma.
Anatomy of the Eye Course
In this course, students study the anatomy of the eye including its structure and physiology. Specific topics include the orbit and adnexa, ocular motility and reflexes, the visual pathway and the eye's relationship with the brain and nervous system. The course also covers embryological development of the eye and anatomical abnormalities. Students may participate in laboratory dissections of human and animal eyes.
Ophthalmic Dispensing Course
Ophthalmic dispensing deals with providing glasses to patients. This course will address the measurements of faces, frames and lenses. Students will work with different types of frames, and be taught how to assist customers with the selection of attractive and functional glasses. Students also learn how to interact with patients in a professional manner and adjust and repair frames.
Contact Lens Procedures Course
Students learn about the dispensing of contact lenses to patients. Coursework and practical experience includes instruction in specialty lenses, patient evaluation, lens material, lens care products and the removal, insertion and hygiene of contact lenses. Students will become familiar with how to educate patients about wearing and storing them.