Insight: How Ophthalmology Caught My Eye

Ophthalmology is a field that I sort of accidentally stumbled into. My first job was the person who filled up balloons at a party store at age 16, at 17 I was delivering mattresses across New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania and I worked overnights at a gas station for a while before beginning my on-and-off ten year love affair with jewelry sales. When a friend of mine told me he had applied to work in the lab making glasses at a LensCrafters, I figured I would, too. Since age 8, I’ve been wearing glasses every minute that I’m awake, so I guess I felt I knew enough about them to make them. LensCrafters hired me on the spot, but decided that my extensive sales history would warrant job selling glasses instead of making them.

I hate sales. Sales feel forced and fake to me. In fact, the reason I jumped from jewelry to optical was to get out of selling. The problem is that I am good at sales. My goals were always met and exceeded. This was bad, because I wanted to get transferred to the lab where I could make glasses but was needed on the floor. The advantage to my selling ability was that management loved me and promoted me within months to “Retail Supervisor”. The title itself isn’t that impressive but the role afforded me something that other sales associates did not have: education. Supervisors were the only people on the sales floor who could read glasses prescriptions with a lensometer. I learned all that I could, even convincing the lab techs to teach me how to use the machines when the store was dead. Eventually I held a dual role as supervisor and lab technician.

In 2014, a head hunter from a private practice contacted me about an optician position. Upon taking the position, I was trained by my first mentor, a Master Optician (ABOM) who taught me all about light refraction, prism decentration and everything most people hate about optics. Meanwhile, an optometric technician left for personal reasons and the office was left with one technician for all of the doctors. I jumped in and was given a crash course on working up patients by the optometrists and sole technician. By the end of 2015, I had learned enough to earn my first two certifications– American Board of Opticians Certification (ABOC) and the Commission of Paraoptometrics Certification (CPO).

Since that Time I have worked at the Wills Eye Institute in the Retina Department and earned both my Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) and Technician (COT) credentials. Today I work in a major health system as a lead technician for the Neuro-Ophthalmology Department and the Thyroid Eye Clinic. In the decade that I have been in the eye care field, I have contributed to the American Optometric Association’s Paraoptometric Study Guide, co-instructed the lensometry lab at the IJCAHPO Annual Continuing Education Program and enrolled as an Ambassador for the Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology. In 2018, I began a blog for optometric and ophthalmic technicians called The Optic Pit. Additionally, I am in the process of writing a guide for technicians who are just starting out in eye care which I hope to publish by 2020.

I have come a long way from a person who was once too squeamish to even watch a person insert a contact lens to someone who would act as a human speculum and manually hold a patient’s eye open for an injection. Ophthalmology is not for the faint of heart but it is a fascinating field to work in.

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