What Does an Independent Optometrist Do?

Amy Rodriguez

An independent optometrist examines the eyes of patients, and prescribes contact lenses and glasses as an individual contractor. These self-employed professionals perform the same duties as a worker within a medical practice, but they may work in franchised offices that they also manage on their own. Typically, the independent optometrist must also have a good grasp of business to stay profitable, as well as helpful to patients.

A pair of eyeglasses.
A pair of eyeglasses.

The main duty of an independent optometrist is examining patients; optical tools are used to determine any visual disease or impairment, from glaucoma to nearsightedness. Along with eyeglasses and contact lenses, he or she is also able to prescribe some medications, like eye drops, for visual problems. Since an independent optometrist needs to market his or her skills to a wide variety of clients to maintain profitability, the majority of practices do not specialize in one particular patient group, such as pediatrics or geriatrics.

An optometrist examines a patient's eyes.
An optometrist examines a patient's eyes.

Common places of employment are within retail stores and other franchise merchandisers. The independent optometrist will need to reach an agreement with the franchise regarding physical space and advertising; most spaces are placed on a lease or rental agreement for several months or years. A business savvy worker will examine the future working space and determine if it is visible enough for attracting patients. In addition, the independent optometrist may work with the franchise to install advertising signs to bring customers in from outside.

Once the space is organized as a viable practice, the worker must form a working filing system to keep all of the patients' records; security of the records should also be considered. Similar to a doctor's office, patients' eye records must be kept confidential. The practice must have a secure computer system and, if necessary, locked paper filing cabinets.

The independent worker will need to keep track of all consumable supplies, such as tissues. During patient treatment, the optometrist must have all the correct supplies to remain professional; patients' care and trust can be damaged if critical supplies are low or missing. Reflecting the business side of independent employment, the worker must keep accurate inventory records to avoid any costly mistakes.

Optometrists use highly accurate vision testing equipment to determine the extent of an eye impairment. As a result, the independent optometrist must periodically calibrate the equipment to ensure precise patient examinations; however, some equipment may need more complicated adjustments. In these cases, optometrists will need to research and hire an outside company to maintain the important equipment.

Optometrists specialize in eye care.
Optometrists specialize in eye care.

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