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What Is an Ophthalmic Assistant and What Do They Do?

Posted: May 28, 2021


Just like your yearly checkup at the doctor or your twice-yearly teeth cleanings, having your eyes checked should be a regular occurrence. As an ophthalmic assistant, you’ll ensure patients’ ocular wellness as a vital part of an ophthalmic practice.  

If you want to start a fulfilling career helping others improve their eye health, then reach out to the Admissions team at Career Quest Learning Centers. They can tell you more about our ophthalmic assistant program that can help you start your new career in just 8 months.

What Is an Ophthalmic Assistant?

Ophthalmic assistants are entry-level employees who work alongside ophthalmologists to provide care to patients. Often, you’ll see the patient before the ophthalmologist, so you’ll have the important responsibility of preparing the patient for the exam. This includes performing standard tests, disinfecting and preparing equipment, and obtaining a medical history.

Depending on the size of the office, ophthalmic assistants may also perform light administrative tasks, like checking in patients, collecting insurance information, and taking payments.

What Does an Ophthalmic Assistant Do?

As an ophthalmic assistant, you’ll perform a variety of tasks based on the needs of the patients as determined by the ophthalmologist. Since you’ll work in a patient-facing role, no two days will be the same.

Some of the duties that ophthalmic assistants perform include:

  • Completing basic eye exams
  • Measuring and testing pupils
  • Billing, coding, and invoicing
  • Obtaining a patient’s ocular and medical history
  • Distributing and administering medications
  • Assisting with certain surgeries

You’ll also be responsible for explaining important information to patients. Excellent customer service and communication skills are a must! In addition to explaining proper eye care, you’ll also help patients understand their glasses and contacts options, as well as any procedures the ophthalmologist recommends.

Where Do Ophthalmic Assistants Work?

Due to their wide range of skills, ophthalmic assistants are highly in-demand at vision care centers. They may also work at hospitals and private ophthalmology practices. In general, ophthalmic assistants will work wherever ophthalmologists or optometrists do.

If you need assistance to find the perfect role for you, the Career Services Department at Career Quest can help. We offer lifetime professional development services that include assistance with resumé and cover letter writing, as well as interview prep. We can also help you find and apply to local employment listings or openings with one of our many employment partners.

Ophthalmologists, Optometrists, and Opticians

As you research what an ophthalmic assistant does, you’ll come across many different experts in the field of ocular eye health, including ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. As an ophthalmic assistant, you’ll probably work under the supervision of either an ophthalmologist or optician.

Ophthalmologists are the experts you’ll likely work with most often. They typically handle the surgical aspects of eye health, including laser surgery. They also help patients with more serious eye conditions like:

  • Macular degeneration
  • Diabetic retinopathy

They can also perform basic eye exams and prescribe glasses or contact lenses.

Optometrists can also perform routine eye exams, write prescriptions for eyeglasses and contacts, and perform contact lens fittings. If a patient has a more serious issue, opticians will likely refer them to an ophthalmologist who specializes in their specific need.

Once an optometrist or ophthalmologist writes an eyeglass prescription, opticians help patients select and fit their prescription glasses. Opticians don’t perform exams or diagnose or treat eye issues.

What Skills Do Ophthalmic Assistants Need?

Ophthalmic assistants need to practice very specific skills that are unique to the ocular health industry. You can learn these skills at a career college like Career Quest. Our 8-month ophthalmic assistant program will prepare you for your new role as an ophthalmic assistant by teaching you necessary skills like:

  • An understanding of ocular anatomy and physiology
  • An understanding of ocular medications and procedures
  • The ability to perform tonometry tests and basic eye exams
  • The ability to measure visual acuity

You’ll also want to practice basic computer skills, like data entry, typing, and scheduling, as well as soft skills, like answering phones.

Other Ophthalmic Assistant Skills

While starting a career as an ophthalmic assistant means learning the technical skills that come with the role, you should also practice the softer skills that will allow you to excel and flourish. These soft skills include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Customer service
  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Respect for patient privacy
  • Adaptability
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • A commitment to accuracy

These skills are often learned through on-the-job training and experience, like an externship, or developed through other roles you may have had throughout your life.

Build Skills as an Ophthalmic Assistant Through an Externship

Our required externship will give you the opportunity to experience life as an ophthalmic assistant before diving into your new career. This will allow you to practice the material and procedures you learned in the classroom and build your soft skills in the field. 

Completing an externship can also improve your confidence in your overall abilities as you realize all the skills you’ve already built and cultivated over the course of your training program.

How Do I Become an Ophthalmic Assistant?

Does the fast-paced and dynamic life of an ophthalmic assistant sound like the next career move for you? If so, you’ll want to receive the right training and experience. Start by taking Career Quest’s Career Training Readiness Quiz to find out if career training is right for you.

Once you’ve completed the quiz, our Admissions team can be in touch to discuss your goals and how our career college can help you achieve them.

Attend an Ophthalmic Assistant Program at an Accredited Career College

As we’ve already discussed, you’ll need to practice and hone technical skills to become an ophthalmic assistant. Our 8-month ophthalmic assistant program will teach you these skills through courses like:

  • Allied Healthcare Procedures
  • Basic Eye Exam
  • Ocular Anatomy & Pathology of Eyes
  • Pharmacology
  • Lensometry, Keratometry, Tonometry & Ophthalmic Imaging
  • Ophthalmic Surgical Procedures & Microbiology

You’ll also take classes on Medical Ethics and Optical Office Administration. Our program is capped off with an externship.

Complete Your COA Certification

All the training programs at our career college are designed to help students prepare for certification exams, including the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) exam. While not required, this certification can open even more doors for you. Ask us how you may be able to take this certification exam at no additional charge.

Do Your Ophthalmic Assistant Career Training at Career Quest

Life as an ophthalmic assistant can be exciting and ever-changing. Career Quest can help you step into your new role in just 8 months through our ophthalmic assistant program. We go above and beyond to offer services like:

  • Straightforward scheduling
  • Small class sizes
  • Employment search assistance
  • Inclusive tuition with no additional materials fees

You may also qualify for certain tuition discounts, like our Dislocated Worker Discount or Michigan Works! discount, so reach out to our Financial Aid department after applying to our career college.

Contact our Admissions team to begin your career as an ophthalmic assistant today!