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What is an Ophthalmic Assistant?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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An ophthalmic assistant is one who works with the ophthalmologist, assisting him or her with patients and records. An ophthalmic assistant may occasionally also work as a secretary or administrative assistant in the doctor's office, but generally works directly with patients prior to their exams. Typically, most ophthalmic assistants are only required to have a high school education for this entry level job; training is generally received on the job. Some ophthalmic assistants choose to take a certification program, and receive certification from the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology.

On a daily basis, an ophthalmic assistant will meet with patients before their scheduled appointment with the ophthalmologist, and begin by taking a history of their general health as well as the health of their eyes. He or she will ask the patients if they have any particular concerns they want to address with the doctor, or if they would like to be fitted for glasses or contacts. The patient may ask the ophthalmic assistant any questions they may have. The assistant will record all of this information on the patient's chart.

In addition to taking history information, the ophthalmic assistant may perform some basic tests on the patient to prep him or her for the exam. These tests are simple and may check eye pressure, peripheral vision, field of vision, color vision, and pupil reaction and size, among others. Ophthalmic assistants may also dilate the pupils if needed, and perform other tasks as assigned, or as needed by the physician.

In addition to this work, some ophthalmic assistants perform scheduling tasks in the office as well. They may be responsible for setting appointments for patients when they call the office, as well as calling patients to confirm appointments. The assistant may also be responsible for maintaining and updating patient records as needed, and performing billing tasks. This may include sending out bills, contacting various insurance companies, and applying payments to accounts when they are received.

Finally, an ophthalmic assistant may be responsible for maintaining the office and the equipment therein. He or she may be responsible for cleaning the office and the equipment, stocking supplies as needed, and calibrating equipment if necessary, and if proper training has been received. Typically an ophthalmic assistant will work full time and receive benefits; the hours are generally regular and during weekdays, so it is a good choice for those who want a steady income and regular hours without the need for a great deal of extra education.

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Discussion Comments
By anon313364 — On Jan 11, 2013

These are the most ridiculous comments posted. I am interested in this field because I always had a fascination with eyes and wanted to become an eye doctor. I don't like any job I have done so far, even though I make good money and have reasonable hours. I want to have kids soon, and I want to be able to enjoy going to work and getting paid a decent amount. Otherwise I will hate leaving and my kids will resent me for not being happy.

By cloudel — On Aug 11, 2012

An ophthalmic assistant's salary is pretty good, in my opinion. I have a friend who holds this position, and she makes about $30,000 a year.

That is more than I am making as a graphic designer, and I went to school for four years for this. She only went for a year.

She is also eligible for raises every year, and she always has the option of going back to school to receive additional training and certification and increasing her earnings that way. I only get a raise every five years or so, and I have no opportunities for advancement in my company.

By seag47 — On Aug 10, 2012

There are some ophthalmic assistant training programs out there that allow people to take courses online. For understanding terms and doing paperwork, I can see how this would work, but for helping with exams, I fail to see how this could benefit a student.

If an ophthalmic student wants to learn how to use the machine that most assistants use on patients that shows them a picture and makes it either more blurry or less blurry as the assistant adjusts it, then how can they accurately do this while studying online? In my opinion, you would need to learn in the office or in a real study environment with the machines in front of you.

By shell4life — On Aug 10, 2012

@orangey03 – My cousin responded to an ad in the paper about an ophthalmic assistant job, and she ended up getting it and working there for three years. She eventually quit because she said that it seemed like she was doing more than the doctor himself was!

She had spoken to him on several occasions about hiring some extra assistants to help her out in the office, but he was too cheap to do it. She tried to stick it out, because the pay was good, but the workload ended up just being too much for her.

When you take your work home with you in your head and lose sleep over it, you know that it is getting to be too much. She got a job in another medical office where she has four other people to help her, and she is much happier now.

By orangey03 — On Aug 09, 2012

It sounds like an ophthalmic assistant has her hands full! Unless she has help from other assistants in the office, she is probably pretty stressed out every day at work. I know that I would be!

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