Maryland Eye Associates
800 Prince Frederick Boulevard
Prince Frederick, MD 20678
The Eye Care Team
Health care and the professionals who care for patients have really blossomed and changed dramatically over the years. With this expansion in the variety of health care workers, confusion has arisen about the different titles as well as the different roles that everyone plays. In a typical hospital one will find physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, medical assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, just to name a few. When we take a closer look at physicians there are more specialists and sub-specialists than one can imagine.
In this article, I will attempt to discuss and describe the various members of the eye care team and the roles that each plays in caring for patients. The eye care team is made up of Ophthalmologists (MDs and DOs), Optometrists (ODs), Opticians, Nurses, Ophthalmic technicians and Ophthalmic assistants.
Ophthalmologists are physicians who typically complete 12 or more years of education after high school. This includes 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 1 year of a surgical and medical internship in a hospital, and 3 years in an Ophthalmology residency program studying surgical and medical treatments of all eye diseases. Some Ophthalmologists decide to continue their education an additional 1 to 2 years and complete an Ophthalmology fellowship in a sub-specialty. Ophthalmologists consist of MDs (Medical Doctor) and DOs (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). MDs and DOs are physicians who can train in any area of medicine from Internal Medicine to Neurosurgery to Pediatrics etc., and who choose to train in Ophthalmology.
The majority of Ophthalmologists practice General Ophthalmology after their residency training. Most Ophthalmologists focus their practice on the diagnosis and management of eye diseases by medical and or surgical treatments. Ophthalmologists also perform refractions, measuring patients for glasses and contacts. To confuse the picture further, however, there are 10 sub-specialties in Ophthalmology. The sub-specialties in Ophthalmology include; Glaucoma, Retina, Cornea, Refractive Surgery, Pediatrics and Strabismus, Oculoplastics, Uveitis, Neuro-Ophthalmolgy, Ocular Oncology, and Ocular Pathology.
Optometrists (ODs) receive a Doctor of Optometry degree. They typically complete 8 or more years of education after high school. This includes 4 years of college and 4 years in Optometry school. Some Optometrists choose to do further training after they complete Optometry school in residency programs that are typically 1 additional year of education. Optometry school includes class room education as well as clinical training with patients. The practice of Optometry has changed over the years and continues to change. In the distant past Optometrists focused more on refractive error corrections and examining the eyes. Measuring the refractive error of patients and then dispensing the proper glasses and contact lenses is both a science as well as an art. The refractive part of an eye exam remains a cornerstone of most Optometrists practices. The majority of Optometrists today also are intricately involved in diagnosing and treating eye diseases. Optometrists and Ophthalmologists often work together in the total care of the patient.
Opticians undergo training to help fit and design eyeglass lenses and the frames as well as other devices to help correct eyesight. They use prescriptions for the glasses that are written by an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist at the time of the eye exam.
Nurses, Ophthalmic technicians, and Ophthalmic assistants are medical personnel who are trained, to varying levels, to perform tests and assist the Ophthalmologist or Optometrist who is treating the patient. These medical professionals play a key role in the care of eye patients.
The eye care team is made up of many dedicated health care professionals. All members of the eye care team are very important and by working together help deliver the best eye health care possible to our patients. Hopefully this article clarifies the different roles and the importance of each of them.