Ophthalmologist Assistant Training
What is Ophthalmology?
Ophthalmology is an exciting and ever-growing branch of the medical profession that deals with one of our most vital and important senses — the sense of sight. Ophthalmologists, or eye doctors, diagnose and treat all medical maladies that might afflict our vision, which includes not only the eye itself, but also the brain and the surrounding areas of the eye. Ophthalmologists differ from optometrists in that they perform surgeries and treat diseases. Patients are referred to ophthalmologists for any number of visual disorders that may include everything from eye glasses and contact lens prescriptions to complex and delicate eye surgery.
Duties of an Opthamologist Assistant
The office of an ophthalmologist is managed and maintained by the skilled medical assistants in charge of the daily duties of the practice. Ophthalmologist assistants successfully schedule appointments, manage day-to-day workplace functions, and expedite office processes through the collection of patient histories and maintenance of health and insurance records. However, the skills of a qualified ophthalmologist assistant must go beyond the daily logistics of helping to run an efficient medical practice; Ophthalmologist assistants should also be uniquely skilled in a number of specialized areas such as application of eye bandages and presentation to patients of the proper use and care of contact lenses. In addition, ophthalmologist assistants must have up to date knowledge in conducting patient exams, measuring vision, and testing the function of eye muscles. As ophthalmologists are surgical doctors, assistants may also maintain optical and surgical equipment and occasionally assist the ophthalmologist during surgeries. Many ophthalmologists also conduct clinical trials and administer studies for academic research. Ophthalmologist assistants, in these cases, will be required to handle, record, and track confidential patient information for research purposes.
Training and Education Needed
Most Ophthalmologist Assistants complete at least one year of formal training at an accredited institution with many students choosing two-year programs to earn an associate degree. Since the scope of the position is so inclusive, ophthalmologist assistants are trained in a vast number of distinct medical procedures, duties, and services. Students studying to become ophthalmologist assistants must earn first aid certification as well as take courses in anatomy and physiology. Students also learn the necessary medical terminology in order to work successfully alongside an ophthalmologist. Most schools also offer medical assistance training that includes general classes on proper laboratory techniques, clinical and diagnostic procedures, and pharmaceutical practices with specific emphasis on knowledge of the correct administration of medications and eye drops. In addition, many two year, associate degree institutions offer courses to their students in office logistics, patient relations, and law and ethics in medicine.
Although not officially required for employment as an ophthalmologist assistant, the vast majority of employers seek out only candidates with certification through the certifying board of the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Students choosing to pursue AAMA certification must graduate from a school accredited through either of the two nationally recognized accreditation programs: the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Nearly all accredited schools require their students to intern with an ophthalmology practice in order to gain practical experience. Once a student has completed the course of study at an accredited institution, he or she may take the AMMA’s national exam to become certified. Ophthalmologist assistants with AAMA certification stand out to prospective employers who look for candidates with knowledge and experience in the field. The AAMA certification is a gold seal of recognition, highlighting a student’s knowledge and accomplishments. If you have a serious interest in earning a certification, and you should, then make sure your school has been recognized by one of the two national accreditation programs mentioned above.
As we grow older, our eyes are often the first organs to need attention. Focus becomes less sharp, cataracts sometimes develop, and the nerves and pathways that secretly guide the miraculous gift of vision dull over time. American census studies estimate the senior population, persons 65 or older, will more than double over the next fifteen years. This population of new seniors, the baby boomers, will undoubtedly increase patient numbers across the entire medical profession. Specialized practices, however, may see even larger numbers as patients are referred by their GP’s. Ophthalmology practices in particular will more than likely become inundated with the wide array of eye ailments that come inevitably with aging. Competent and skilled individuals will be in high demand to work alongside opthamologists in their growing practices.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/