Orthoptics

Orthoptics, literally meaning "straight eyes", is the study of the ophthalmic science that pertains to vision, visual function, eye movements and binocular coordination. An orthoptist is a health care professional who specializes in visual function assessment and neuromuscular anomalies of the eyes. In an adjunctive capacity, an orthoptist works exclusively with an ophthalmologist as a physician extender and community liaison to allow the ophthalmologist to expand his or her services while maintaining quality care.

Clinical Practice

The practice of orthoptics is multi-fold. Clinical orthoptics may be practiced in a variety of physical locations including hospitals, clinics, private offices and academic medical institutions. Individual positions may be designed to meet the needs of both employer and employee. Orthoptists evaluate and monitor patients with amblyopia, convergence insufficiency, accommodative esotropia, and other non-surgical disorders of ocular motility and binocular vision. Patients may be referred for sensorimotor evaluation from within the practice or from the medical community who request assessment of patients with amblyopia, pre- and post-operative strabismus and complaints relating to binocular function.

Credentialing

Most graduates of orthoptic schools seek to obtain national certification, granted by the American Orthoptic Council upon successful completion of both written and oral/practical board examinations. The American Orthoptic Council develops requirements for the education and training of orthoptists, accredits teaching programs able to meet those requirements, examines and certifies candidates who complete training, sets continuing education goals for periodic recertification, and oversees the ethical aspects of orthoptic practice in the United States.

The American Orthoptic Council consists of representatives of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the American Association of Certified Orthoptists, the American Ophthalmological Society, and the Canadian Orthoptic Council. In order to be eligible to take the national board exams, the orthoptist must be sponsored by the program director of an AOC accredited orthoptic school. Orthoptists must re-certify every three years, showing proof of continuing education that includes attendance at scientific meetings. The certificate issued by the Council signifies that the Certified Orthoptist has successfully completed the training and examination process, has met the standards for certification, and is ethically and otherwise in good standing. It is not a license to engage in the practice of orthoptics, and does not replace or necessarily fulfill any requirements of state or local agencies pertaining to the practice of a health care profession.

Ethical Standards of Orthoptic Practice

Certified orthoptists are bound by a Code of Ethics as specified by the American Orthoptic Council. Among other things, this code requires that orthoptic services be rendered only under the overall supervision of an ophthalmologist.