Feature, Optical Dispensing

Hot tips for successful dispensing: Part 1

When it comes to effective optical dispensing, there is a wealth of information to aid practitioners to get the best outcome for their patients. JAMES GIBBINS boils it down to some of the key elements.

James Gibbins.

Our industry has many experienced optical dispensers who are in an excellent position to pass on pearls of wisdom to the next generation. Imagine a world where each new practitioner had to slog through that long process on every learning point?

While there’s no question some of the best insight is learned via personal experience, there are many ‘hot tips’ that can be passed on from an able experienced teacher to the hungry and teachable learner.

I have been in our industry now, on and off a little, since 1983, and have some key advice gathered from my own experience or via my mentors and teachers.

Tip No 1: The most obvious and significant tip for any optical assistant (unqualified with the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing) is always – get your qualification! This certificate comes with a stack of training in lens theory, practical dispensing skills and the all-important interpersonal and retail skills. It is this qualification, and the knowledge and skills that come with it, that separates the Qualified Optical Dispenser from the Optical Assistant.

Not in any way am I trying to devalue the role of optical assistants who perform some outstanding work. But the view of our team is that every optical assistant is by definition on an optical learning pathway, and that pathway always leads to the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing. It enables the dispenser to perform at a higher level and offers benefits to the employer and the workplace to have a higher trained practitioner. It also empowers the dispenser for life having it featured proudly on their resume.

Tip No 2: What comes first when dispensing, frame or lenses? So often, when the patient is waiting for the appointment, we might suggest a good use of time is to consider the frame selection. This is fine, providing the patient knows the final decision needs to be confirmed after the eye test and the prescription is obtained. This is because good frame selection is often dictated by the prescription. Many patients have thought the selection was settled before the eye test, only to be told after that what they had selected is in fact inappropriate, and selection needs to be repeated.

Tip No 3: Learn the importance of the optical cross and how to apply this information. Very often, the optical assistant will see the prescription in terms of sphere power – is it small, moderate or large? The same is considered for the cylinder power, which will also have an axis attached to it.

And they will have a rough impression of how much the power sizes contribute to the completed lens thickness. However, it is the optical cross which will determine exactly where the thickness will lie, and this thickness will also be dictated by the relevant meridians in the frame shape. There is far more detail to this skill than can be covered here.

And of course, the basic rules of the optical cross are: sphere power only on the axis meridian, and sphere power combined with cylinder power on the opposite, perpendicular meridian.

Tip No 4: A critical point in the dispensing exchange with patients is the “handover” or the “collection”. Getting this relatively simple part right can contribute significantly to the overall success of the dispense. The moment the patient is about to receive their spectacles, you are faced with the question – do we as the optical professional take the lead and, with informed consent, place the spectacles on to the customer? Or do we hand them over for the customer to place on themselves? This has been a controversial question in the past and continues to polarise opinion. Traditionally, and still today as taught in many textbooks and colleges, the student is advised to take the lead and place the spectacles on the customer. However, in today’s climate, we sense most of our customers would prefer putting on the spectacles themselves.

Frame checking and alignment can then be undertaken, of course, after the customer’s informed consent. This approach will also help avoid the potential traps some of us are familiar with, such as unfortunate pokes into ears, eyes, hair clips, wigs and toupees, hats, scarfs and hijabs, and even possibly a prosthetic! Far preferable to let the customer pop them on first, and then we can apply our skills to the frame alignment.

In part 2, we will consider six more ‘hot tips’ including frame adjustment, final checking and progressives ordering.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Gibbins is a qualified optical dispenser with over 30 years of experience in both retail dispensing and dispenser training, and is a director and senior trainer with the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing.

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