Let’s discuss the benefits of an educated optician for a minute. I feel that there is a misconception about my field and what I and others in my industry do.
Let’s look at one potential area of opticianry and that’s harm. Harm? Carrie! There is no proof of harm. If someone can’t see, after all, they’ll just take their eyewear off. While this is an understandable misconception, it is a fallacy. There’s no proof of harm because there are no studies into the harm caused by inadequate or ill-fitting eyewear on the visual pathway of children, on the fall rate of the elderly, on the accident rate, or on the eye strain of the office worker. There is no proof because no one looks into it due to the severe lack of funding. There is also no qualitative or quantitative data on the vision that has been saved because an educated optician was able to recognize the early stages of a torn retina, uveitis, and angle-closure glaucoma and was able to quickly refer to a specialist.
Opticianry also goes far beyond harm and improves the quality of life. An optician can bring joy and vision to a person that they didn’t think was possible. A contact lens fitter can conduct vision therapy and can bring a patient with extensive corneal scaring from 20/700 to 20/50, which is from legally blind to able to drive. An expert mechanical optician can design eyewear so beautiful the patient cries because they’ve been made fun of all their lives and they finally have something to wear that looks normal because the optician understands the concepts of physics, material, vertex, design, and math. These are life-changing events.
Opticianry is often seen as a retail field. Something that is basic, entry-level, that can be done by anyone, and is easily replaced by an online entity. And for some people and for some prescriptions I am sure this is true. However, this is for a smaller amount than what the media and online companies would have you believe. An optician is often the first line of ophthalmic care and the primary care provider that most people see in remote areas. Shouldn’t that person be as educated as possible?
I have to be honest. Sometimes I’m feeling my age in this industry and I wonder where the spark is. Where are those who want to take up the challenge and fight for education and standards and the betterment of our field? Let me know if you are one who is still fighting and realizes we are more than they say we are.