"So, what can be done? For starters, let’s use the word Optician as often as possible. Let’s put it in print, let’s say it out loud."
Retail StrategiesTaking Charge: Building a Better OpticianBy Johnna Dukes, ABOC
As an Optician, how do you see yourself? Are you the one who takes the order, or are you the one who chooses the best lens, selects the frame that best suits and fits the patient and helps craft both your patient’s look as well as their vision? I don’t know about you, but I am firmly the latter choice. If you don’t see yourself in that manner, then neither do your patients. Want to change the perception? Read on, my friend.
As I see it, Opticians are in a constant battle for credibility. Not only do we need the public to see us as professionals, but wouldn’t it be great if the public could see us at all. By that I mean that John Q. Public has no idea what the word Optician even means, and they certainly don’t know what we do.
So, what can be done? For starters, let’s use the word Optician as often as possible. Let’s put it in print, let’s say it out loud. Let’s see if we can get others to recognize what it is we do. How? Start by evaluating how we see ourselves. If you look at yourself as a professional, you will naturally want to elevate your skills; you will work to find answers for things you don’t fully understand in order to better teach your patients about them. If you see yourself as a professional, it is much easier for you to present yourself that way in front of your patient, who will in turn, see you as a professional too. Katniss Everdeen would call that “catching fire.”
Next, let’s make sure we are looking at our interactions with clients differently from the way we are now. If you are one who lets the patient choose their own frame, I’d start right there and re-evaluate. Remember, a professional evaluates the patient’s bridge fit, facial features, temple length, and prescriptive needs, and then makes recommendations based on these factors. If you’re not doing that, you ought to be.
Then, we need to see how things are going with lens selection. Are you driving the conversation? Are you asking how the patient is using their eyes? Are you asking questions at all? Things that we need to know about will be near versus intermediate usage, whether they are a candidate for a near variable focus lens or progressive lens design. Have you discussed sunwear or the need to protect the eyes from blue light and/or Ultra Violet Radiation? If you’re only asking about whether or not they want a “no-line” lens, I’d venture to say you’re missing the boat, and you’re not presenting yourself as a professional.
Remember, the patient wants to be cared for by a professional, and if you’re not a professional, they will go where they can find one. Perceptions change slowly, but rest assured, they do change. So start where you are with what you can, and if you present yourself as a professional, you will see that shift begin to happen!
Glaciers, Alaska and Opticianry
By Maryann Santos, Program Director
Vision Care Technology, Goodwin College
Have you ever been to Alaska? Do you live there? If so, you know the beauty and splendor of America’s largest and 49th state. We all learned in grade school that Alaska is the largest state of the union, larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined!
In August, I had a unique opportunity to travel to Alaska via cruise ship with some fellow opticianry professionals. After visiting Glacier Bay, I made some associations between opticianry, glaciers, and Alaskan wildlife.
Glaciers and icebergs differ. Icebergs form when large chunks of ice break off from glaciers. Icebergs travel with the ocean’s current. Glaciers on the other hand, are formed by fallen snow that transforms into ice after a long period of time. What makes glaciers unique is that they move and flow like very slow rivers.
Opticianry is like a glacier in a few ways. Our profession is large and strong and we move; often very slowly. Glaciers affect people as they provide drinking water and irrigate crops. Opticians provide solutions for good vision, and help people perform, look and feel their best.
Besides viewing glaciers, I had the delight of viewing humpback whales and sea otters in Glacier Bay. Humpback whales journey from Hawaii to Alaska like clockwork each year. Whales are mammals, they breastfeed and, unlike fish, whales cannot get oxygen from the water and need to surface to breathe in air. It is amazing to see a whale blow air from its blowhole! This occurs when a whale surfaces to empty its lungs and breathe fresh air in again. Whales represent the larger entities in opticianry such as managed care and online sales. We need to empty our optical lungs from old ways of thinking and performing, and breathe in new ideas. We must stay on top of trends and technology to be able to perform well on our optical journey.
The sea otters are so much smaller than the whales and represent the independent optician, as they are small but mighty. Sea otters can dive more than 300 feet to forage for food! Additionally, besides primates, sea otters are some of only a few mammals that use tools for survival. They are known to use rocks to break shells away from rocks, then hammer them to pry them open for food. Sea otters remind me of the independent optical as they are resourceful, and use their entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity to stay strong and successful in our field.
I kayaked in 380 foot waters that are home to the visiting humpback whales, orcas, and other sea creatures. The deep waters and vast Alaskan terrain remind me of how deep and vast our profession is and that there are enough people in the world in need of visual correction for us all to take part. We come from various industries in optical but, in the end, we are here to serve our patients well.
If you visit the U.S.Department of the Interior’s National Park Service page on Glacier Bay National Park, you will see how they describe this precious area of land. “It is a land reborn, a world returning to life, a living lesson in resilience. If ever we needed a place to intrigue and inspire us, this is it.”
The rainbow I saw after visiting Glacier Bay was a reminder that opticianry is a profession returning to life with committed and open minded professionals willing to work together. We, too, are a living lesson in resilience. With changes in technology and professional responsibilities, we can and will work together to help people see and look their best.
Eyewear & Art
By Maryann Santos
Do you know when a thought pops into your head and you just run with it not knowing why it’s there, but you stay with it? Recently, I was thinking about the connection between eyewear and art. Artistic trends come and go, and are influenced by a variety of sources reaching as far as music, theatre, literature, politics, nature, emotions and feelings, personal experiences, science and fashion. While pondering the connection between art and eyewear, I thought of one of our students who has her bachelor’s degree in art history and is pursuing an associate’s degree in vision care technology. I imagined art history blending with opticianry, like colors on a palate. Art historians wonder about who created, painted and designed a work of art. They examine the time period, what the object is made of, and how the work of art is or was used. While studying art and art history, one develops an eye for perspective, color and detail.
Eyeglass frames are art for the face. The way a work of art adorns a wall, an ophthalmic frame adorns a face. Opticians who work with ophthalmic frames use some of the same thoughts and skills an art historian uses. When an ophthalmic frame representative comes into the dispensary, the optician enters the world of examiner. We examine the varied shapes, designs, textures and colors of the pieces. Ophthalmic frames, like art, run the gamut from classic and traditional to bold, edgy and contemporary. Most optical shops have displays that are similar to a gallery. We have come a long way from the Shuron Ronsir frame.
Art aficionados have their own unique taste when it comes to art, as there are countless forms and materials. There are hundreds of genres of art from abstract to urban.
The materials used by artists and ophthalmic frame designers overlap. Some materials we share are metal, titanium, wood, plastic, aluminum, copper beryllium, carbon fiber and gold.
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16th-century painter Simon Bening painted himself on tempera and gold leaf on parchment holding a pair of spectacles in 1558. This artist was so proud of his spectacles that at the age of 75 he decided to do a self-portrait!
Artists frame their works of art, and we frame our works of art—our patients.
Why you should see an optician for eye-wear adjustments.
It is super important to keep your glasses clean and in good adjustment, most people do not realize how much better you can see when your glasses are lined up where they are supposed to be, and how much better the world looks when your lenses are clean! Adjustments aren’t always simple, so it is important for you to see an optician on a regular basis, especially if you are having problems with your vision. NEVER try and adjust your glasses by yourself. And because your glasses are always on your face, make sure that you come in for regular nose pad replacements and tune ups.
Adjustments aren’t always a walk in the park. Contrary to popular belief your face is not as symmetrical as you may think. One ear is usually higher than the other, and sometimes your eyebrows being uneven can give you illusion that your glasses are crooked. Opticians are trained to compensate for things like this, and making sure that you see one on a regular basis means that your glasses are always sitting where they need to be. Your glasses are measured when the frames are in perfect alignment. So when the glasses are crooked, you may not be seeing the best you possibly can. If you feel like you can’t see as well in your glasses after you fell or got hit in the face, you may need an adjustment.
Never try and adjust your glasses yourself. It takes expertise to be able to fit glasses, and we have tools to manipulate glasses that you may not have at home. One example is heat. Heat is one of the most used tools in adjusting eyewear. It makes the plastic bendable and the heat is specialized so that the frames don’t get too hot, but hot enough where they can be manipulated without breaking. IF your glasses ever do break, NEVER USE GLUE. If glue gets on your lenses, there is no recovering from that. If something happens to your glasses, always bring them to a shop to have them looked at. Opticians try everything to save a pair of glasses, but if they can’t be saved they can give you options on what to do next.
Crooked Glasses; Can Effect More Than Just Your Appearance
Rebecca-Lyn Roberts ABOC, NCLEC.
When was the last time you brought your car for a tune up? The same question should be asked about your glasses as well. Our glasses, need routine care just as our cars do!
How often do we accidentally fall asleep with our eyewear on our face? How often do we drop or accidentally sit on our glasses? Bringing your glasses to a local optician for regular adjustments can save eyestrain, headaches, dizziness and can all around allow you to have better vision out of your eyewear.
What is an Optician?
1: a maker of or dealer in optical items and instruments
2: a person who reads prescriptions for visual correction, orders lenses, and dispenses eyeglasses and contact lenses, preforms adjustments to eyewear, fits contact lenses
Opticians can be found at your family eye doctor, privately owned optical shops, and even large chain stores including but not limited to Lens Crafters, BJs, Costco, Target and Walmart. Some optical stores will not adjust outside frames and it is important to know most have a policy that they are not responsible for any breakage to outside frames when adjusting them. But, with today’s world it is common to find an optical shop within a five-mile proximity, so it is important to bring eye wear in for routine inspections and adjustments.
What Does Misalignment Actually Do to My Prescription?
When your glasses are first given to you by an optician, the glasses are and should be throughouly adjusted to you to ensure your lenses are aligned correctly with your facial features as well as your prescription. In order to see light passes through the optical center, through the pupil and focuses in the back of your eye. If this is off center in any way your vision can be obscured, and eye fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and general discomfort can occur. Your prescription is centered in your frame using a measurement we call Pupillary Distance, this is the distance in-between your two eyes, and also, your optical center height, this is where the center of your eye sits in the frame. So, if the glasses become misaligned, you are not looking through the full strength of your eyeglass prescription. Wearing progressive lenses; also known as invisible lined multifocal lenses, that are misaligned can cause tremendous amounts of eyestrain and difficulty seeing at fixed distances.
Steiner, J. (n.d.). Can Crooked Glasses Make Your Eyesight Worse? Retrieved March 09, 2018, from http://endmyopia.org/crooked-glasses-worse-eyesight/
Optician. (n.d.). Retrieved March 09, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optician
Crooked glasses. (2009, February 18). Retrieved March 09, 2018, from https://mindflowers.wordpress.com/2008/11/02/crooked-glasses/
EducationOAA Leadership Conference Follow-Up
By Maryann Santos, Program Director, Vision Care Technology, Goodwin College
Opticians Association of America held their OAA Leadership conference in Charleston, SC, February 8-10, 2018. Imagine being in a general session, breakouts, and socializing with opticians, apprentice opticians, opticianry students, industry leaders, frame, lab and lens representatives from all over the country. Each year the OAA puts on an outstanding conference that allows for learning, connecting, and sharing together for the sole purpose of fostering opticianry.
A part of the fun for me is experiencing the state roll call. Chris Allen, OAA’s Executive Director, calls each state and the attendees from each state respond by raising their hands, clapping, or hootin’ and hollerin’. It’s energizing to see the excitement each state brings to this conference. There were attendees from all corners of the U.S., and as far away as Alaska.
Dozens of student and apprentice leaders in opticianry attended. They had unique breakout sessions specifically designed for their leadership growth and development.
Attendees had the opportunity to choose from three different breakout sessions throughout the three days. Some topics were: State Society By-Laws, Promoting State Societies Online, Starting an Optical Program, How to Become a Presenter, Choosing a Convention Venue, Partnering With Your Partners, ANSI Standards, Branding and Mission Work. There is something for everyone, wherever they are in their optical journey.
Opticians give back. Monies were raised for The Vision of Hope Foundation, the giving arm of the OAA. Before the commencement of the conference, Vision of Hope participated in an eyecare mission trip in Charleston. A local optical shop closed for the day to allow for the mission work. Fifty-four people were served and 50 of them needed eyeglasses. One was an eleven-year-old girl who received her first pair of eyeglasses. Her prescription was -4.50. This child was astonished when she saw birds flying in the air for the first time! There was also a referral for glaucoma. Opticians serve; it’s what we do. If you have a heart for serving and/or you are able to contribute financially, visit the “giving back” tab on the OAA website.
Each year, OAA Leadership has their conference in a location where attendees can explore the surrounding area. Beautiful Charleston, SC, is a hospitable and historical city. The people of Charleston are friendly (singing in the street and on the elevator), and the dining options are tremendous and delicious.
If it weren’t for the generous Partners, this conference would not be able to run at its current level and capacity. Peruse the OAA website to view the list of Partners. These are the companies that believe in the optician.
Keep an eye out for next year's conference!
Opticians Association of America: www.oaa.org. Vision of Hope: www.oaavoh.org
Continuing EducationFuture LeadersBy Maryann Santos, Program Director, Vision Care Technology, Goodwin College
At the college, our Vision Care Technology students are introduced to the “players” in our industry beginning with the 3 O’s (opticianry, optometry, and ophthalmology), frame, lens, and laboratory representatives, and state and national organizations.
The one organization that unites all opticians is the Opticians Association of America (OAA). Each year the OAA puts on a State Leadership Conference drawing opticians, optical students, apprentice opticians, state society members, and industry representatives and optical leaders from across the country.
Student and apprentice optician attendance has been on an upswing in recent years. The first year of “Leadership”, there were 5 or 6 students, the past three years, there were more than 30 student attendees! Many return bringing classmates and/or colleagues, and some have entered leadership positions themselves after the networking opportunities they developed at the conference. The student track of three day courses includes topics on how to run a board meeting, understanding the various officer positions and committees within the make-up of a state association, and how to become a leader at your college, state association and even on a national level.
Students can apply to the OAA for a grant to help defray the cost of attending. Many who are not awarded a national grant, are able to receive support from their state associations. The state associations also financially support apprentices from their states who indicate their commitment and desire to attend.
The students develop a strong bond and remain connected through an OAA Leadership student Facebook page and online chats. Before leaving the conference, they develop a "leadership action plan". Upon their return home, students work on implementing their plans and keep in contact with their leadership classmates and mentors throughout the year. In addition, the students elect a representative to serve on the OAA Board of Directors.
Upon their arrival to the conference, students and apprentices are assigned as members of the welcoming committee and immediately meet other students and leaders. When not in student leader development classes, they attend general sessions and breakout sessions with national leaders as guests of their home state associations. State associations have created positions for student leaders to be able to serve as directors to their own boards.The passion for our profession grows from this conference. Megan Tyler, 2nd year Goodwin College Vision Care Technology student said, “Leadership 2017 was an anticipated event for me as a first year Ophthalmic Science Student. With so much still unknown about the profession and how I would even fit in to the world of optics, I was skeptical about my take away from it. The three days that I was in Savannah, GA, felt like I was a part of something incredible, something that was going to change the way people see the world (literally). Going into the 2018 year, I cannot wait to return, because walking into a room of strangers and feeling like you can accomplish the world with the amazing work that we do and feeling like you are at home, will be a feeling I will never forget. A feeling I will return with to the OAA State Leadership Conference every year.”
This year’s OAA State Leadership Conference will be held February 8-10, 2018 in Charleston, SC. Let’s make this a record turn-out! For more information and registration, go to http://www.oaa.org/events/2018/02/08/2018_oaa_ldr_conference.
The Ideal Student By Maryann Santos, ABOM
Optical student applicants
As program director for Vision Care Technology (A.S. degree) at Goodwin College, I must identify the ideal skills, interests, and knowledge set that make a strong applicant to our program. Students who apply are recent high school graduates, career changers, or are in higher education with a desire to be in healthcare. An optician should be well versed in basic algebra, have mechanical dexterity, and a desire to work with people in a healthcare setting. After much reflection, I narrowed the ideal skills, interests, and knowledge set down to four categories: math, science, sales, and healthcare.
To be accepted into the program a student must have a C+ or better in Intermediate Algebra or a higher-level math course. Students who can apply mathematical principles with ease are naturally more successful in the program and as practicing opticians. Opticians use mathematical principles daily, sometimes without even realizing. Math is being applied when neutralizing a pair of eyeglasses on the lensometer, lining up a job for edging, or final inspection. Often times we need to transpose a spectacle prescription from plus to minus cylinder, convert a multifocal prescription to intermediate or near vision only, calculate slab off prism or compensate for vertex distance. We do all of this by using our math skills. For those opticians who fit contact lenses, math is used for gas permeable lens design, determining vertex compensation power, and modifying lens power after over refraction.
Students who have a curious mind and wonder how the human eye works, are ideal applicants to the program. Students with an interest in science tend to thrive in such courses as Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology of the Eye. Our biology course is demanding, but the knowledge gained is transferable to subsequent contact lens courses and applicable in the field. Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology of the Eye explain to students how the eye converts light into a visual image, anatomical and biological causes of refractive errors, as well as common eye disorders, and diseases of the eye and associated treatments.
At the end of the day, we are selling a product to a customer. To be successful as an optician it helps to enjoy working with people of various backgrounds and ages. In sales, one has to meet the customer’s needs and be a problem solver. In Goodwin College’s Optical Training Store, students apply “lifestyle dispensing.” Students learn how to get to know their customers/patients by listening to them and filling their optical needs. Opticianry is a multi-faceted profession in which one can work as an independent owner, for a corporate chain in the mall, in an optometric or ophthalmology office, or in a high-end or economy environment. Formal education allows the student to be able to know the “why” behind certain products and features to best serve the customer/patient.
Opticians are in a unique position as we work between the examining eye doctor and the consumer/patient. Students are drawn to the profession because of their interest in being part of healthcare, a desire to have direct patient care, and want to have an impact in patients’ lives by helping them see their best. Many ideal students are out there. Encourage them to join us in an exciting and rewarding field!
CONTINUING EDUCATIONCan Optician Be a Household Word?By Maryann Santos, ABOM, CT Licensed Optician
Children are often asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The most common responses are: doctor, teacher, nurse, firefighter, or policeman . As children get older they learn about different professions such as accountant, lawyer, dentist, construction worker and electrician. Unless an optician is in the family, the profession of opticianry is rarely dinner time talk. Even children who wear glasses rarely consider being an optician. Why? If you ask the average optician how they landed in the field, many will say that they fell into the career by chance or it's been in their family.
Looking to the Future
To ensure the future growth of opticianry, we must make the profession a viable career option for the youth of today. How many careers offer the diversity that ours offers? We are afforded a profession that is a blend of math and science, healthcare, fashion, hands-on repairs and fabrication, sales and management, and even small business ownership. Opticians can work days, afternoons and evenings, weekends or Monday through Friday. There are national organizations that work to promote and sustain the profession. One is the Optician’s Association of America (OAA). This national group works to get opticianry to the eyes and ears of Americans with their public service announcements (PSAs) marketing the profession. They are active in Social Media, where you can search and “like” them on Facebook. There one can find PSA announcements and other videos, including links to share on your Timeline or Page. This is just another way to get opticianry “out there.”
Building a legacy
Another avenue to increase the visibility of our profession is building relationships with colleges. There are 30 members of the National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS) in the U.S. and Canada. The NFOS board is working to increase that number and to see schools open in states that have no opticianry programs. Bob Russo, President of the NFOS says, “As technology advances in the eye care profession, it is important that opticians have a thorough understanding of optics, to understand why we do things and to be able to troubleshoot optical prescriptions, in order to meet the visual expectations of our patients.”
Yet another way to advance our field is for opticians and/or state optician associations to contact local high school guidance departments and participate in their career fairs. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of opticians is projected to grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, a much faster growth compared to the average for all occupations combined. An aging population and increasing rates of chronic disease are expected to lead to greater demand for corrective eyewear. The jobs are there. Collectively, we need to promote this exciting profession in our own way. Perhaps by mentoring a young adult or offer a career transition person a day to shadow you at your place of employment.
Reading publications like this one says that you have an interest in promoting a best kept secret, opticianry. I urge you to join your local opticianry association and get to know the OAA. Together, we can make opticianry a household word.
THIS IS YOUR YEAR TO GO!
October 6-8, 2017 is OptiCon is ABO-NCLE's national education conference. If you are an apprentice optician, an opticianry student, a licensed optician, or an optical dispenser this is the place for you. Imagine ABO and NCLE credit classes all under one roof. In addition, there are review classes and opportunities to sit for your national boards.
One of the highlights is to watch the National Federation of Opticianry Schools (NFOS) student reps compete in the annual College Bowl. Optical knowledge competition, jeopardy style. It's a lot of fun.
Being around like-minded professionals from all over the USA provides an opportunity for you to share best practices, meet people who may end up being life-ling friends, and can re-energize you professionally. The courses are outstanding as is the exhibit hall.
All of this takes place right outside of Magic Kingdom at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
Please visit ABO-NCLE website at https://www.abo-ncle.org/
Here is an excerpt from their website:
OptiCon® 2017 will take place from October 6 - October 8, 2017 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida at Disney's Contemporary Resort! Mark your calendar now so that you don't miss this event. Come to Disney before the conference, or stay after the conference to enjoy everything that Walt Disney World has to offer.
OptiCon® 2017 events will begin on Friday morning, October 6 with educational sessions, and continue through Sunday afternoon (October 8). Courses that are being scheduled include the following categories: Spectacle, Contact Lens, Business and Hands-On, Refraction for Opticians, as well as the ABO and NCLE exam review courses!
For more information on the conference itself, hotel and air travel, please click on the links to the left. Additional information will be posted as it becomes available.
We look forward to seeing you at Disney!
Tom Barracato, ABOC Patrick Goughary, NCLEM, ABOM
ABO Board Chair NCLE Board Chair
This is "our" place to share ideas, information and thoughts on opticianry, eyewear, & contact lenses.