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What is the role of an optometrist today?

31/10/2017
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To the optometrists out there: how would you describe what you do for work? Do you just prescribe and sell glasses? Do you consider yourself an optician or a clinician? Are you satisfied with what you do? Do you find optometry repetitive and wish you had studied medicine instead?

The role of an optometrist is as diverse as the patients we see on a daily basis.

OPTICIAN

The most obvious role of an optometrist is to help patients see better through the use of glasses and contact lenses. This is no small feat! It can be life-changing for a patient. Whether it is the child with -5 cyl who keeps squinting in front of the TV, the progressive myope, or simply the office worker who suffers frontal headaches, we make enormous and immediate improvements in people’s lives. We literally perform magic by bending light to change the way people see the world.

OCULAR DISEASE GURU

How many times has a patient come in with a viral infection, foreign body, or posterior ocular pathology after having been through a course of Chlorsig at their local pharmacy? Too many to count! Optometrists are the front line in the detection and treatment of common eye diseases. Sadly, there is still inadequate public awareness of the unique skills we possess.

On cringe-worthy occasion I still see patients that have been turned away by fellow optometrists for a red eye or foreign body because they were booked out or “do not see emergency red eyes here”. It is up to all of us to push ourselves to manage more ocular disease within our scope of practice and advocate to our local patients, GPs and pharmacists.

COUNSELLOR

"Optometrists are the front line in the detection and treatment of common eye diseases. Sadly, there is still inadequate public awareness of the unique skills we possess."

Our patients often present to us at their most vulnerable – with blurry vision, low vision, pain and apprehension. It takes a great deal of empathy and professionalism to help our patients through these challenges.

It is up to us to listen to the patient and alleviate their fears, to refer them appropriately and ensure that they are in contact with support groups such as Vision Australia or to introduce them to counselling services. We take care of the whole person, not just their eyes.

INTERMEDIARY

We are the glue that holds the patient’s healthcare network together. Optometrists are skilled in collaborating not only with ophthalmologists, but also GPs, neurologists and endocrinologists. We elaborate on any questions that the patient was too scared to ask their ophthalmologist, we give patients a stern lecture when they are being lazy with their diabetes or hypertension meds, we help patients manage dizziness and headaches that have worried them enough to have an MRI.

Face A Face
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SCIENTIST

We are scientists with constantly evolving skills. We are leading a myopia control revolution through groundbreaking research. We are constantly adapting to new technologies, new contact lenses and evidence-based medicine. We are adapting to a changing digital world where eyes are the most valuable asset.

FASHION STYLIST

Many of us work with the world’s premium luxury brands and have an intimate knowledge of face shapes and styling. We are one of the only health professionals that get to dip our toes into the glamorous world of fashion (except maybe plastic surgeons). We sell luxury goods, but also lifestyle products that improve the patient’s quality of life and bring them joy and confidence.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Presently, optometry is undergoing rapid changes, both positive and negative. Some fear we are losing our autonomy and are being forced to assume the role of an ‘optician’, rather than a full-scope, highly skilled allied health professional.

Those who feel discouraged or pessimistic about their career or the future of our industry should look in the mirror and ask themselves if they are making the most of optometrists’ privileged position in society.

Are we doing our best to make a difference to all of our patients? Are we advocating for the profession and supporting our peers? Or are we simply stuck in a dark room asking, “Which is better: one or two?”


Name: Behzad Ghafourian
Qualifications: BOptom (Hons)/BScience
Business: Eye Concepts North Sydney
Position: Optometrist
Location: North Sydney, NSW
Years in the profession: Three

 

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