An optician is someone who works in an optical dispensary and whose job it is to assist patients with the selection and fitting of eyeglasses and contact lenses. Although opticians are unlicensed in most states, they work closely with advanced providers such as ophthalmologists and optometrists to provide high quality care to the public. Individuals who want to work in the vision industry without being required to complete several years of college education and post-graduate training are encouraged to consider the optician career path as a potential employment opportunity. The first step in deciding whether or not this profession is appropriate is to develop a basic understanding of the types of responsibilities that an optician has on a daily basis.
The typical workflow in most eye care offices is for a patient to receive a medical eye examination prior to being handed off to the optical dispensary. Optometrists and ophthalmologists are responsible for the diagnosis and management of eye diseases as well as performing the refraction that is used to determine which lens prescription is required to optimize vision. Once the exam has been completed, the patient is often taken to the in-house dispensary where an optician will assist with the selection of frames and lens customization options. Although most eye care establishments have their own dispensary, a patient may choose to take their prescription to a different dispensary or return on a separate day to go through the process of selecting and purchasing eye wear.
Before beginning the frame selection process, it is customary for the optician to collect a few eye and face measurements that will help guide the patient to the frames that are most appropriate for their facial structure. Some of the most common measurements include temple length, pupil distance, vertex distance, and optical centers. Most dispensaries have hundreds of retail products on display and it can be daunting to try and select a comfortable pair of frames without having a general idea of which frames will rest comfortably on the face. After the measurements have been gathered, the optician will show the patient which products are likely to fit the best and will provide feedback on those that align most with an individual’s sense of style, taste in fashion, and budget. Today, frames are made of varying types of materials and the patient may discover that certain features of a particular product appeal to them.
After the patient has had some time to browse through their frame options, the optician will usually ask if there are any special lens customization options that are desired. Modern lenses can be constructed to suit the needs of patients who have very high visual standards as well as those who have little concern for the clarity of vision that they experience. Lenses that utilize advanced technology are generally more of an expense, but they are capable of eliminating many of the visual defects that are encountered when standard lenses are placed in the frames. In addition, special coatings and tints can be added to lenses in order to improve their functionality in different environments. Customization options do come with a cost, but they may be important to some individuals. Once the frames and lens specifications have been made, the optician will usually create a work order that is submitted to an independent laboratory.
Although it used to be common for an optician to perform their own lens customization options and eye wear assemblies in their own laboratory, many organizations have found that the outsourcing of these tasks to independent companies is far more efficient and cost effective. Once the finished product has been returned to the dispensary, the optician will typically schedule the patient for a follow-up visit to review the eye wear and submit any requests for modifications. While these activities represent the bulk of the activities included in the standard optician job description, some offices may also require the optician to perform inventory management, assist with scheduling and insurance claim submission, repair damaged eye wear, help resolve any customer conflicts that arise, train new opticians, and carry out a variety of routine administrative tasks.