Optometrist Assistant Courses and Classes Overview

An optometrist assistant performs some vision tests, dispenses contact lenses and helps fit patients for glasses. Optometrist assistant courses can be taken during a full program leading to a postsecondary non-degree award or a degree.

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Essential Information

Although optometrist assistants are not required to complete a training program, many optometrist's and ophthalmologist's offices will look favorably upon those who do. Many community colleges and vocational schools provide programs in optometric assisting, most requiring between 6 months and 2 years to complete. These programs may lead to a diploma, 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 as a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA).

Students in one of these formal training programs study the anatomy and physiology of the eye, learn about abnormalities and study how prescriptions are translated. They learn to give patients ophthalmic tests for glaucoma, depth perception, color vision and visual acuity. Courses in glasses and contact lenses are included to teach students to fit patients for both of these devices and help them choose frames for their glasses, as well as teach patients to insert, remove and clean their contact lenses.

Some programs cover additional topics, such as front office procedures, health care law and ethics, patient relations and first aid. While a diploma or certificate program may just include a single clinical experience, a degree program may incorporate multiple practica.

Overview of Optometrist Assistant Courses

A program for aspiring optometrist assistants typically includes the courses explained below.

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 papillary 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 diagnostic pharmaceutical agents, optometric terminology and prescription translation. Students will learn how certain anatomical abnormalities in the eye can signal health problems unrelated to the eyes, like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Ophthalmic Dispensing Course

Ophthalmic dispensing deals with providing glasses to patients. This course will address the measurements of faces, frames and lenses. Students will learn to identify the different types of frames. They will be taught how to insert and remove lenses from frames and 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 the more technical aspects of clinical contact lens practices, including complications that may arise for patients who wear them.

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Schools for Aspiring Opticians: How to Choose

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