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What is a dispensing optician?

Interview with an opti… what?

People know optometrists as the well-known “eye doctors” they are. However, an eye care professional whose title sometimes gets misunderstood is the optician. We sat with Camélia, who gave us a little sneak peek into the life of an optician.

Dispensing optician, definition:

An optician is the person helping you get the glasses that are right for you once you’ve received a prescription from your optometrist. In other words, they are the pharmacists of eye care. They are the professionals you can count on for your needs and questions regarding your visual aids should you require any and the necessary measures. Even though dispensing opticians aren’t allowed to diagnose or treat conditions relating to the eye, they work in tandem with an optometrist to offer you the best vision correction tools.

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What kind of training is needed to become an optician?

Eye health is at the core of the profession, opticians can’t simply become trained professionals at the snap of a finger. We need to study the craft. Across Canada, becoming an optician means graduating from a designated college program, passing board exams and becoming accredited through the order or college of that province. For self-directed students, they are tested on their knowledge before receiving their accreditation, and the optician’s performance is closely monitored. Even within this field, opticians can specialize even further and pass appropriate testing for each separate specialization.

Did you know that in certain jurisdictions there is a similar yet distinct eye care professional named a refracting optician? A refracting optician is an eye expert that uses the same equipment as an optometrist to perform a regular eye exam for Single Vision clients, as well as Progressive Vision clients between a certain age, but will leave the diagnosis up to the optometrist.

What does a typical day look like for someone in your line of work?

Camélia : What’s fun about the job is that the tasks are varied. We start the day by receiving glasses orders. We need to analyze, check measurements, clean and adjust them to prepare the glasses ordered by our clients. Each pair of glasses is rigorously analyzed at every step of their creation in the lab and one final time in-store by an optician, only then can clients come to pick up their order. For contact lenses* the prescription needs to be validated, and each box needs to indicate which eye it is for.

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Throughout the day there may be appointments to get your ophthalmic lenses cut, meaning we have the machinery to cut the lenses on-site and accommodate the client with our 1-hour service offered for Single Vision prescriptions. However, more precise adjustments will be performed in our lab in Montréal, Canada.

Opticians don’t just sell glasses. Though we can help you choose your frame or validate the ones suggested by a salesperson, our job is really about adjusting the prescribed measures by the optometrist depending on the type of lens suggested and chosen.

What do you love most about your job?

Camélia: What I love most about my job is the human aspect. I love building relationships with each client. We are professionals who are easy to reach and we take the time to get to know our clients so as to better answer their needs and tastes. There is nothing more gratifying than a client that comes back because they enjoyed our service. 

Eye health, comfort and quality of vision are very important. For example, if you have dry eyes there can be certain restrictions with contact lenses. By taking the time to ask you questions and listen, opticians can better meet your needs.

Moreover, from a more professional point of view, the fashion aspect compels me just as much as the health component of the job. I love giving my advice on looks and frame choices. Taking clients out of their comfort zone and offering them a wow factor through their new pair of glasses, all while ensuring they are equipped with the best visual tools, is a strength and a pleasure I’m always on the lookout for while on the job.

A few tips from your optician

Firstly, trust your optician’s advice. They’re trained to pick the best lens option for you based on your vision needs and your prescriptions. 

When it comes to contacts, the first step is to get an eye exam done. We strongly recommend getting fitted for contact lenses, not only to verify the condition of your eyes but to ensure you find the product that best suits your needs. Prescriptions are written according to your optometrist’s best judgment and at their discretion, and they will indicate on your prescription if your eyes can handle contact lenses. If you don’t have a valid prescription, your optician may refuse to sell or fit you for contact lenses. In fact, in certain provinces such as Quebec and Ontario, a contact lens order cannot be placed unless it goes through an optician. 

When purchasing glasses for a child for the first time, it’s important that the child likes the frame and is comfortable wearing it. If they don’t like their glasses, they won’t want to wear them. As an optician, it is their job to know the morphology of your child’s face and are the most qualified to validate the frame choice to make sure the frame is comfortable and meets all the needs and the personality of your child.

More than ever, the work of opticians is transformed by revolutionary technological progress. Schedule an appointment for a virtual consultation with one of our opticians

Want to read more? Learn how to determine the quality of a frame and how often you should come in for an eye exam

*In Quebec, all opticians are trained and allowed to do contact lenses fitting. In other provinces, the different Orders and Colleges may require specific training to that effect.

October 12, 2021
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