Optometric Assistant Job Description
Optometric assistants provide assistance to optometrists by performing patient screenings, light clerical duties, pre-examinations, and by handling insurance and billing matters. Optometric assistants find jobs with eyeglass shops and optometry offices of all types and are usually supervised by the optometrist or the office manager. Optometric assistants work full- and part-time daytime office hours during the week and weekend and typically are not required to do any travel in the course of the job.
Optometric Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
Whether employed by a store or a medical facility, optometric assistants perform a number of regular daily duties:
Optometric assistants greet customers who walk into the shop or office, as well as answer incoming phone calls from vendors and customers.
Optometric assistants are responsible for pre-screening patients. This includes obtaining their medical and vision history, verifying vision insurance, and sometimes performing preliminary vision tests. Optometric assistants may also administer eye drops to patients, if needed, during the pre-screening process.
Optometric assistants keep patient files organized, record data for optometrists, order office supplies as needed, and perform other light clerical tasks in the front office. They also schedule appointments and follow-up visits for patients and record data for patient billing purposes.
Provide Contact Lens Training
Optometric assistants provide patients with contact lens training through verbal and visual instruction.
Order Contact Lenses and Frames
Optometric assistants order new contact lenses and frames, and when necessary, contact patients to tell them when their orders are available for pickup.
Adjust and Repair Glasses
After receiving on-the-job training, optometric assistants make adjustments and minor repairs to glasses frames for customers who come into the office.
Maintain Reception and Exam Areas
Optometric assistants are responsible for keeping the reception area clean and well-organized, as well as cleaning and straightening patient exam rooms. This includes putting up and organizing eyeglass frame displays.
Optometric Assistant Skills and Qualifications
Optometric assistants are detailed-oriented workers. They also exhibit good people skills in order to put patients at ease and give them a pleasant experience before and after their eye examinations. Optometrists looking to hire optometric assistants seek out professionals who are able to display the following essential job skills:
- CustomerService – Optometric assistants must keep patients at ease and answer any questions they have, which requires them to have good customer service skills
- Sales – Optometric assistants advise customers on which contact lenses and eyeglass frames to buy, so candidates who have prior sales experience and sales skills will stand out to potential employers
- Data Entry – Because inventory systems, patient schedules, patient files, and other data is commonly stored digitally, employers require optometric assistants to have at least basic computer and data entry skills
- Mechanical Aptitude – Eyeglasses, contact lenses, and vision testing equipment is very sensitive, so employers seek optometric assistants who are able to work well with their hands and perform delicate mechanical tasks
- Communication – They also advise customers on how to insert and remove contact lenses, how to keep their glasses clean, and how to take care of their eyes, so people seeking this career need to have strong verbal communication skills
Tools of the Trade
Along with phones and standard office equipment, optometric assistants will receive training on how to use these tools specific to eye examinations and eye care:
- Diagnostic Equipment – (keratometer/ophthalmometer)
- Eye Charts – (wall charts, digital vision tests)
- Corrective Tools – (eyeglass frames, contact lenses)
Optometric Assistant Education and Training
Optometric assistants must have a high school diploma or equivalent, but no specific schooling or special training is required to obtain this job. Some employers will require optometric assistants to have previous work experience in medical or business offices, or experience specifically working in an optical store or lab. Some offices require an ABO Certification. This is a standard competence assessment that is required by a number of states. In order to receive certification, candidates must pass the National Opticianry Competency Exam and the Contact Lens Registry Exam. Both of these tests contain 125 questions and take two and half hours to complete apiece.
Most offices will provide optometric assistants with a paid training period spanning several weeks, in which professionals become familiar with office procedures, eye testing equipment, and computer software programs.
Optometric Assistant Salary and Outlook
According to data from the BLS, “Medical Assistants” of all types earned an annual salary of $31,540 in 2016, or an average of $15.17 per hour. In 2016, there were 634,400 jobs available for medical assistants in all fields, a number that is expected to increase by 29 percent through the year 2026. This job growth rate is much faster than the national average. PayScale data shows that optometric assistants earn a median income of $12.80 per hour.
Optometric assistants can expect to receive full vision insurance benefits, including discounts on all eyeglasses and lenses, through their employer. Depending on the office where they are employed, optometric assistants may also receive health and dental insurance benefits. Optometric assistants will also get paid vacation and sick days as a standard job benefit.
Discover career and networking opportunities for optometric assistants as well as continuing education information and career tips, using these websites and books:
American Optometric Association – The AOA represents tens of thousands of eye care specialists, including optometry doctors, students, and assistants. Visit this website to find information about education and training, as well as resources regarding clinical guidelines, working with medical records, and vision rehabilitation techniques.
The Complete Optometric Assistant, 1e – This guide, written by optometric assistant Sarah Morgan, covers all the basics of pursuing this career and succeeding in all aspects of the job.
Learn – Use the Learn website to find out about certification programs as well as educational institutions and courses for optometric assistants and other vision professionals.
Self Study Course for Optometric Assisting – Use this textbook from the AOA to learn all the basics of becoming an optometric assistant. This book also contains a glossary of ophthalmic technology and several self-assessment exams.
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