Code of Ethics: Ophthalmic Personnel

Ophthalmic technicians are medical assistants for ophthalmologists. Certification is not a requirement by law, but being a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA), Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) or a Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT) assures physicians and patients alike that a technician has an elevated professional standard and possesses advanced knowledge in their field. The International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO) is the governing body over certification for ophthalmic medical assistants and has guidelines in place to ensure that all certified personnel meet the same markers of professionalism in patient care.

Most of the ethical standards written by IJCAHPO directly involve patient care, and rightfully so. Meeting and exceeding the needs of the people that we help our physicians treat should always be the number one priority of medical staff. Legally, all identifying patient information is kept confidential but IJCAHPO calls for personnel to further respect the patient’s right to privacy while assessing situations and assuming responsibilities of professional decisions in the care of the patient (IJCAHOP, 2018). These regulations are very common throughout medicine, but the rules that stand out most, in my opinion, are the ones that pertain to continuing education. As mentioned above, the certification of ophthalmic personnel is not a legal requirement, where other medical staff, such as nurses, cannot practice without certification. A COA, COT or COMT is obligated to take many continuing education credits to maintain their credentials. The motivation to learn more and the application of this information to every day patient care is a core aspect of the IJCAHPO Standard of Ethics.

In various parts of the document, there are references of professionalism. Those who already are or are planning on becoming certified through IJCAHPO are to act and speak professionally, but the guidelines do not detail what the term means for the organization. The Code of Ethics clearly states rules, eight in total, that exemplify professionalism in a medical scope, but the term itself is not that well defined. Acting “professionally” is a matter of subjection and the idea of professionalism may vary from person to person. Section B of the document, Rules of Ethics, delves into great detail on what professionalism does not look like, but most of these corruptions are obvious, like striking up romantic relationships with patients or intending to harm the public. This list of standards could implement a subsection on what professionalism means to the organization with a clear definition of the word for ophthalmic assistants that succinctly covers the basis of speech, appearance and conduct.

Even in the matter of defining what being professional means to the Commission, the IJCAHPO Certification Standards of Conduct is a well written and understandable for all ophthalmic personnel. As most practices do not require that techs certify, staff members who have reached even the entry level of credentialing have a certain degree of drive and motivation that many unfortunately lack. Granted, there are many assistants and technicians who do not have any level of ophthalmic certification, but the Standard of Ethics ensures that all certified members adhere to a set of rules and regulations that others may not have to necessarily.

IJCAHPO Certification Committee. IJCAHPO Certification Standards of Ethics. April 2018.

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