Ophthalmic Medical Assistants – Training and Duties

Medical assistants, also known as MA, are trained medical professionals who work closely with patients, doctors and other health care providers. They go through training programs that prepare them with the knowledge and skills needed to perform the many duties in which medical assistants are responsible. After the successful completion of an accredited MA training program, a medical assistant becomes eligible for licensing. MA perform duties that include patient assessment, testing, treatment administration, assisting physicians and clerical duties. A medical assistant has the opportunity to specialize in specific fields of medicine. An ophthalmic medical assistant is a trained medical assistant who chose to specialize in ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is a specialized branch of medicine that primarily deals with the anatomy, physiology, diseases and injuries associated with the eye.

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Ophthalmic medical assistants typically complete an accredited MA training program. These programs are available from a variety of sources including community colleges, technical centers, universities and on-line programs. MA programs last up to two years. Two-year programs often allow the participant to graduate with an associate degree. After the completion of the traditional MA training program, those wishing to pursue a career specializing as an ophthalmic medical assistant may be required to go through additional training and education pertaining to ophthalmology. Further education and training associated with ophthalmic MA maybe provided by the employer, through continuing education classes or specialized training programs offered through schools. Training offered through an employer may be specific to the employer’s needs, preparing the MA for work in their practice only. Training offered through schools may be more extensive giving the individual the opportunity to work in an optometry practice in any area.

Employment opportunities

Medical assistants who choose to specialize in ophthalmology find employment opportunities in a variety of settings.

  • They work in optometry practices and hospitals or clinics that offer ophthalmic services across the country. They have the opportunity to work for both optometrists and ophthalmologists.
  • Ophthalmic MA also work as educators. They teach medical assistant students taking either MA or ophthalmic MA training classes. They can teach part or all of a training program, with the proper teaching credentials, or specialized classes that pertain to the ophthalmic specialty.

Performing Tests

MA working in an optometry or ophthalmology practice are responsible for performing diagnostic tests involving the eyes and vision. They measure and record each patient’s vision. They perform tests that check a patient’s eye muscle function. Ophthalmic MA performs tests that check each patient’s peripheral vision, eye pressure and if they are colorblind. After each test, an ophthalmic MA will document their findings into the patients chart. They report any drastic changes or abnormalities to the physician when discovered.

Assisting the Physician

Assisting the optometrist or ophthalmologist is part of the job duties for an ophthalmic medical assistant.

  • They administer eye medication, in accordance with their protocols or direct order from the doctor.
  • Ophthalmic MA help ophthalmologists during eye surgery and procedures. They apply and remove bandages covering the eyes.
  • Ophthalmic medical assistants assure the physicians have what they need to examine and treat their patients by stocking exam and procedure rooms with supplies and equipment. MA specializing in ophthalmology also assure that the equipment used during surgery, procedures or testing is sanitized and ready for use on patients.

Helping Patients

Ophthalmic MA help patients in a variety of ways during their visit to the eye doctor. They explain how and why specific tests are performed. They help patients navigate through the office to the testing, procedure and exam rooms.

  • MA that specialize in ophthalmology teach patients how to insert and remove contact lenses. They also teach and demonstrate how to use supportive equipment needed by the patient.
  • Ophthalmic MA explain how and when to use eye medications and eye drops. They also demonstrate and explain how often to change any bandages covering the eyes following a procedure or eye surgery.
  • MA working in ophthalmology may be responsible for giving patient’s instructions on how to care for their eyes, warn patients of any side effects and advise them of any necessary precautions or things to avoid after their procedure or surgery.

Clerical Duties

Clerical duties associated with ophthalmic medical assistants include compiling, pulling and filing patient medical charts. They are typically responsible for answering phone lines and calling patients to remind them of their upcoming appointments. Ophthalmic MA often greet patients when they arrive in the office. They give patients the necessary paperwork to fill out and gather personal information including address and insurance provider information. Ophthalmic MA schedule patient appointments. They fill in cancellations and re-schedule appointments when needed. They may be in charge of placing orders for supplies and equipment used in the office when stocks become low. Some ophthalmic MA may be responsible for patient billing, transcription and verifying doctor’s orders.

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Article Written by Rachel Dennis

Rachel Dennis works as both a professional writer and health care provider. She has been a licensed health care provider since 1998, with work experience as a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant and emergency medical technician. She has been writing since 1994 and has been published both on-line and in print.

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