An Occupational Outlook On An Ophthalmic Medical Assistant

What An Ophthalmic Medical Assistant Does

An ophthalmic medical assistant is also known as an ophthalmic assistant and assists doctors who specialize in treating disorders of the eye. These assistants have clinical duties where they assist the medical specialist and they also have administrative duties which could include:

Administrative Duties

  • Handling patient accounts
  • Making appointments
  • Confirming appointments
  • Reception
  • Recording medical history of patients
  • Registering patients at the front desk

Clinical Duties

  • Capturing data on software on the computer
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Completing insurance forms on behalf of the patients with the diagnostic and processing medical codes
  • Educating patients in maintaining, inserting and removing contact lenses
  • Performing eye tests before the ophthalmic examination
  • Administering eye drops for dilating pupils before the examination
  • Maintain optical equipment and instruments
  • Sterilizing surgical instruments before surgical procedure
  • Assisting the doctor in laser and surgical eye operations

These duties will vary from one practice to another depending on the size of the surgery and the qualifications of the assistant.

The assistant is expected to run the business so that the doctor can focus on seeing patients and it can be a high-pressure job at times. It is important for the assistant to be there and to be on time so that the doctor can focus on what he has been trained to do, which is the art of healing.

Requirements To Become An Ophthalmic Medical Assistant

In many instances, you don’t need to have a degree or certificate in order to work as an ophthalmic medical assistant. The assistant should have at least a high school diploma and after that, a lot of the work is learnt through on the job training.

The skills that could be to your advantage when applying for a job as a medical assistant are as follows:

English Language

Not just knowing how to speak the language, but the proper use of it, such as grammar and pronunciation as well as the spelling of words and medical terminology. Working in the medical field means that the image portrayed to the patients must be one of extreme professionalism and competence. If you cannot spell the basic words in English, then how can they be sure that you filled out the correct prescription and that the spelling on the label is correct?

Reading comprehension is also very important when reading work related documents and informational scripts. This skill also enhances the learning experience with on-the-job training.

Medicinal And Anatomical Knowledge

Ophthalmic medical assistant
Having knowledge of the disorders of the eyes as well as the different parts that make up the eye will come in very handy when you are working in the surgery of a doctor who treats these kinds of disorders and diseases. When you know what you are looking at and speaking of, you will be a lot more competent and confident when speaking to patients and gathering patient’s medical information.

People And Communication Skills

Often when someone is visiting the surgery they are in a large amount of pain or discomfort and the last thing they need is someone who is cold, abrupt or even rude and impatient. The Ophthalmic medical assistant needs to have excellent people skills couple with empathy and compassion to be able to assist the patients and get the information that they need out of them. It is also important for the business itself that patients would want to come there because without the patients, the practice would not exist. Having active listening skills are very important. This means that not only are you hearing what the person is saying, but you are also taking note of it and you are asking questions to clarify and understand what it is they are trying to say.

Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is very important for the assistant to be able to convey certain information to the patient and to gather information from the patient as well. Should the assistant need to explain to the patient on how to insert contact lenses, they need to do so clearly and patiently so that the patients do not misunderstand and end up hurting themselves in the process. Being able to give instructions in a set order is also important for the very same reason.

Sensitivity To Problems

The human ego often does not let us communicate to others when something is wrong and people are often embarrassed to inconvenience others. It is up to the assistant then to be able to pick up on subtle signs that something may be wrong and be able to act on that in a way that will not embarrass the patient or make them feel like an inconvenience. For example, a patient’s eyes are extremely sensitive to light once their pupils have been dilated. Having them sit in a room with a large number of other patients with bright florescent lighting may cause them discomfort. It is up to the assistant to think about these things and to make the patients as comfortable as possible.

Administrative Skills

Being organised and being able to work according to procedure is extremely important for an ophthalmic assistant. When working with sensitive information such as patient personal and medical histories it is very important that the records be kept safe and is available for quick referencing. Being able to work with filing systems on paper as well as on the computer is highly valued. Most practices are computer-based with patient databases and invoicing being conducted by specialized computer software. Knowing your way around a computer and knowing how to troubleshoot a problem should things go wrong with the technology is very important. This technical knowledge also comes in handy when working with the surgical instruments and equipment.

Critical Thinking

There are many instances in which the assistant will have to use their own initiative and would have to make choices by using their reason to identify strengths and weaknesses in and action before acting and finding solutions to problems without having to disturb the doctor on a constant basis for small matters.

Working Environment

Most Ophthalmic medical assistants work full time in an optometrist or an eye surgeon’s office. A distinction needs to be made here between and optometrist and an ophthalmologist as there is a large difference between these two professions. An optometrist does not treat disorders and diseases of the eyes and they do not have to have a degree in order to practise. Optometry is referred to in many states as primary eye care. An ophthalmologist on the other hand has a degree in eye care and does medical procedures on the eyes as well as administering and prescribing medication. Should the practice have a mixture of full-time and part-time staff the assistants will gain a more flexible schedule which means this career is suitable for parents who have to take their children’s schedule in consideration with their working schedule.

As such there will be a clear difference between what the different assistants do in these practices. The Ophthalmic medical assistant will need to know more about the defects and diseases as well as the treatments of these disorders. This career entails a lot of time being spent on your feet and could become uncomfortable if the correct clothing and shoes are not being worn. A large part of the workload consists of answering phones and speaking to people over the counter, sometimes both of these occur at the same time. Some days may be quiet, but other days it may feel like the entire city has decided to visit and call at the same time and everyone needs to be treated with the same amount of respect and patience.

Some assistants who help the doctor during surgery will be expected to hold things and move things while the doctor is busy with the operation and it is likely that there will be an amount of blood involved thus it is not a profession for someone who is sensitive to the sight of blood.

It is also important for hygiene to be maintained at a high level to prevent the spread and contraction of infection, especially since the human eye is a very sensitive organ.

Earning Potential

The annual wage of an ophthalmic assistant is around $30 000 dollars, but it can be as high as $70 000 depending on the individual. This may seem like and above average salary, but when you take in consideration that it is the ophthalmic medical assistant that basically manages the practice, it does not come as such a surprise. The more experience and qualifications the assistant gains, the higher the salary that they earn becomes.

Job Outlook

It is no use planning to go into a career if you do not know if you will be employed and for how long you will remain employed. There is good news for aspiring medical assistants as the industry is expected to grow marginally until 2020 as with medical technology increases, doctors can see more patients in a shorter amount of time and they will need to hire more assistants to do the clerical work so that they can focus on diagnosing and treating patients. With more work load comes more specialization as well where one assistant will be hired to assist in theater and another will be hired to handle all of the appointments and registration while yet another will be hired to update and maintain patient records as well as do all of the follow ups and reminders.

Ophthalmic medical assistants can also be taken up into hospitals and other medical centers and they can work their way up to management positions through experience, training and qualification.

The Option Of Getting A Diploma

Although many assistants are hired without a diploma or any form of formal training, the chances of being hired and the level of remuneration you could receive increase by a large degree if you have the right qualification. This diploma will prepare you for employment in a practice and you will learn to apply the technical skills you gain from textbooks as well as how to perform office management duties.

How To Be A Certified Ophthalmic Medical Assistant

To become certified, and in such earn the highest possible salary in your career, you would need to enrol in an accredited program in your field of work. Once you have completed your course and you have completed the practicum as per the program, you will be trained by ophthalmic personnel who have the experience to do so. There is an exam that needs to be taken which is given by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology and once you have passed this exam, you can then become certified as an ophthalmic medical Assistant.

To Recap

If you are the type of person who is accurate, does not turn from the sight of blood, cares about the welfare of others and can communicate effectively then this job is for you. The assistant to an eye surgeon needs to have a sense of ownership when it comes to the workload and be able to take initiative when getting things done and sorting out problems. The ophthalmologist needs to concentrate on staying abreast of the latest techniques and developments in the medical world and does not need to be concerned with the daily running of the administrative part of the business. For this the assistant needs to take responsibility and needs to do so with style and grace while still treating the patients with dignity and respect even if they can get difficult sometimes under high-pressure situations. Being able to convey instructions and information over to the patients is of utmost import and the assistant needs to have the safety and security of the patients in mind at all times because of the amount of sensitive and confidential information the assistant comes into contact with on a daily basis.

All of these skills come together to make the practice run smoothly and professionally so that many more feet come through the door to make the practise a successful and happy work environment.

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