An optician is someone who specializes in the selection and fitting of eyeglasses and contact lenses. Although opticians are primarily responsible for providing retail services, most of them work directly with ophthalmologists and optometrists who have been trained and licensed to diagnose and evaluate diseases of the eye as well as perform prescription lens examinations. While an optician is not qualified to provide medical services, they are an essential component of the provision of care process. In most work environments, the optician is assigned to a customer after the eye examination has been completed and the individual is ready to shop for eye wear and select customization options for their prescription lenses.
Some opticians have chosen to open their own retail establishment that is independent of other eye care organizations. In cases where the optician operates their own business and does not employ medical providers, customers will be required to obtain their prescription from a separate office. According to federal law, all offices must provide patients with a copy of their prescription so that they can take it to whichever retail establishment they desire. This gives individuals the freedom to choose where they will purchase glasses and contact lenses regardless of where the eye examination is performed. In the past, it used to be far more common for an optician to open their own business than it is today. Generally, customers will find that most opticians choose to work for group practice that offers both medical and retail services under one roof.
Individuals who are in need of eye care often prefer to complete both the medical evaluation and the retail purchase during the same visit. This approach saves time and is more convenient for those who have hectic schedules. In most cases, a patient is first seen by either the optometrist or ophthalmologist. These licensed medical providers will ensure that the patient’s eyes are healthy and that a solution for each problem has been offered. Those who are planning to purchase eyeglasses or contact lenses will need to have a refraction performed in order to determine the proper prescription for the lenses. Once the patient’s medical concerns have been addressed, they are typically escorted to the optical dispensary where an optician is assigned to assist with the frame selection and lens customization process.
While it is very common for individuals to use their prescription to purchase eye wear within the same office, some customer’s choose to shop at a different dispensary or return at a later date. In these cases, the typical optical workflow may be slightly different depending on what the customer decides to do. In addition, the waiting period that often occurs prior to the medical exam is commonly used to browse the dispensary in search of products that may be of interest once the individual is ready to consider purchasing eye wear.
The standard optical dispensary contains hundreds of eyeglasses that are designed to fit different facial structures and appeal to varying tastes in fashion. Two of the most important professional responsibilities that an optician has are to ensure that the selected frames fit comfortably on the customer’s face and that the lenses provide optimal visual clarity. In order to identify frames that are appropriately sized for the customer’s face, the optician will collect measurements such as temple length, visual centers, pupil distance, and vertex distance. The data that is gathered from these measurements is then used to direct individuals to frames that are most likely to provide the greatest comfort and the best vision.
Frames are a highly diverse retail product that can be manufactured using several different materials and stylistic approaches. Successful opticians are great at identifying an individual’s sense of style and taste in fashion. Although it is important to allow customers to browse the dispensary on their own, the optician should be ready and willing to offer feedback about a specific pair of frames if the customer requests input. Most employers send their opticians to conferences and fashion events that provide training on the latest frame styles as well as classes that teach individuals how to match customers with the appropriate retail product.
Once the customer has found a pair of frames that they are happy with, the optician will usually review the prescription lens options that are available. Lenses can be constructed using many different techniques that provide varying levels of visual clarity. Individuals who want the highest visual clarity possible and who are willing to spend more money may choose to purchase technologically advanced lenses. Those who are not as concerned with visual clarity and who are on a tighter budget may select lenses that are considered standard grade. In addition, coatings and tints can be added to the lenses in order to enhance their durability and improve their functionality. All customers should be given the option to have these customization options added to their order.
After the frames and lens options have been finalized, the optician will need to create a work order for either the in-house or independent laboratory. While it used to be common for an optician to cut lenses and assemble eyeglasses themselves, many organizations have discovered that it is more cost effective and efficient to outsource these tasks to an independent laboratory that offers competitive pricing and fast turnover. Once the lab has received the work order, they will manufacture the lenses and install them in the frames. The finished product is then shipped back to the optical dispensary where the optician will inspect them to make sure there are no imperfections. After the inspection has been completed, the office will schedule a return visit for the customer so that the optician can ensure that the eye wear fits comfortably and so the customer can express any concerns they might have.
The majority of an optician’s work day is spent in the optical dispensary where they provide retail services to customers. While the optician employment contract is fairly standard across the US, individuals who are considering this profession should be aware that additional tasks may be included based on the patient population being served, the needs of the employer, and the qualifications of the optician. Some added responsibilities that they optician might have include insurance processing, answering telephones, scheduling appointments, managing inventory, cleaning, resolving customer complaints, repairing damaged frames, and organizing office events. Individuals are encouraged to review the employment contract before signing.