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An optometric technician assists optometrists through gathering patient data, administering vision therapy, educating patients about vision products or procedures, performing lab work, tracking or maintaining inventory, scheduling and other administrative tasks, conducting various vision tests and cleaning equipment. Their work allows the optometrist's office to run smoothly and efficiently, simultaneously allowing the optometrist to handle more patients and concentrate on more advanced optometry tasks. Formal training is necessary to perform this work.
In most offices, an optometric technician gathers information about the vision patient. For instance, he may verify basic information such as the patient's address or current prescription strength. He also gets data about the patient's medical conditions, as some conditions such as diabetes are known to affect vision. From this data, the technician is able to put together an initial assessment of what the optometrist's focus needs to be in examination or treatment. As needed, the technician adds information to the patient's file.
Physical therapies sometimes are necessary to get a patient's vision to improve. When the optometrist recommends vision therapy, the optometric technician helps the patient "exercise" the eyes. This does not simply refer to the muscles of the eyes; it also involves working with the brain and improving how the brain interprets or processes visual data.
Although optometrists are qualified to conduct vision tests with patients, it is more effective for the optometrist to delegate some of the therapeutic tasks to technicians so that the optometrist can complete more complex duties. Depth perception, color vision, pupil reflexes and blood pressure all are tests an optometric technician can do. Additional examples are visual acuity, pressure within the eye and visual field testing.
Patients who come to see an optometrist sometimes are not familiar with the tests or procedures that need to be done as part of their visual health. When this is the case, the optometric technician serves as an educator, explaining what the tests or procedures will accomplish and how the technician or optometrist will complete them. The role of educator also extends into basic eye and visual aid care, with the technician walking patients through how to care for glasses or contacts properly.
When not working directly with patients, optometric technologists sometimes perform laboratory work such as grinding lenses. They also take time to manage inventory, ordering supplies when necessary. It is the optometrist's duty to clean the optometry equipment regularly, reporting problems if any are found. He may perform administrative functions such as setting up appointments with patients, maintaining record databases and billing, although these functions are often performed by a receptionist or secretary instead.