Ophthalmic Medical Assistant: Duties, Salary, How to Become, & More

A medical assistant is a healthcare worker that assists other staff by performing clinical and administrative tasks. They play an essential role in the healthcare system. Medical assistants can also choose to work in a particular specialty, such as ophthalmology. 

Ophthalmology is a medical field that focuses on managing and treating disorders of the eye, often through surgical procedures. Optometry is a closely related healthcare field that focuses on providing primary eye care.

Ophthalmic medical assistants may work in ophthalmology or optometry offices to help care for patients’ vision and eye health. In addition, they help with scheduling appointments and billing so that everything during the patient’s visit goes smoothly. 

This guide will go over everything you need to know about ophthalmic medical assistants, including what they do, where they work, average salary, how to become one, and more. 

What is an Ophthalmic Medical Assistant?

An ophthalmic medical assistant is a healthcare worker that assists ophthalmologists and optometrists with clinical and administrative tasks. Their duties are wide-ranging and include checking patients’ vision, verifying glasses prescriptions, scheduling appointments, and more. 

They work in locations that provide eye care services, such as private clinics or hospitals. 

What Does an Ophthalmic Medical Assistant Do?

Ophthalmic medical assistants perform duties that are divided into two categories: clinical and administrative. Clinical duties involve directly providing patients with care, while administrative duties involve office work. 

Clinical Duties

  • Checking patients’ vision. In a comprehensive eye examination, it is important to assess how well a patient is seeing, both with their current glass’ prescription and without. This is typically done using a Snellen chart, which measures visual acuity using different sizes of letters. Ophthalmic medical assists may help with this.
  • Performing pre-testing. Pre-testing typically includes tests like checking eye pressures, using an autorefractor to estimate a patient’s prescription and running visual field screening tests. 
  • Using lensometers. Lensometers are instruments used to check the prescription of glasses. They come in both manual and automated forms and may be used by medical assistants. 
  • Taking patient case history. In every patient visit, it is essential to take a thorough case history. You will ask the patient about several things like their last eye exam, their medical history, and medications they are currently taking. 

Administrative Duties

  • Scheduling appointments. This includes booking, rescheduling, and canceling appointments. 
  • Making and answering phone calls. Ophthalmic medical assistants are usually in charge of communicating with patients over the phone. They can answer questions, give directions, and remind patients about their appointments. In addition, they can help triage patient complaints.
  • Making sure supplies are well-stocked. A healthcare facility needs adequate supplies to operate effectively. Ophthalmic medical assistants need to be familiar with the kinds of supplies needed and how to order them. 
  • Maintaining equipment. A typical ophthalmology office will have a variety of complex (and expensive) instruments, such as slit lamps, phoropters, autorefractors, and more. Ophthalmic medical assistants help maintain equipment and make sure that everything works correctly. 
  • Filling out paperwork. Ophthalmic medical assistants may need to fill out forms, such as DMV or disability forms, in order to help patients get the care they need. In addition, they may help patients fill out questionnaires and intake forms. 

Where Do Ophthalmic Medical Assistants Work?

Ophthalmic medical assistants work in places that provide eye care, such as private practices and hospitals. They can be found in almost any location where ophthalmologists or optometrists work. 

Working in a private practice is different from working in a larger healthcare facility, such as a hospital. In a private practice setting, there are usually fewer total employees. As a result, ophthalmic medical assistants may be asked to perform a wider variety of tasks. They may also have a more flexible work schedule.

In a hospital setting, ophthalmic medical assistants may experience a more dynamic and faster-paced work environment. Hospitals tend to see more patients during a typical workday. This higher patient volume means that ophthalmic medical assistants may spend more time on their feet or may need to frequently multitask.

Skills Required to Be an Ophthalmic Medical Assistant?

To be succeed as an ophthalmic medical assistant, you will need to have the following skills: 

  • Dexterity. An ophthalmic medical assistant needs to be able to operate various kinds of equipment, such as autorefractors, tonometers, and lensometers. Using these instruments requires a good amount of manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
  • Communication. Being able to respectfully address patients’ concerns is essential. In addition, it is important to be able to give good instructions to patients during procedures.
  • Organization. On a busy workday, ophthalmic medical assistants will have their hands full with several tasks. So, it is important to be organized so that everything runs smoothly.
  • Computer skills. As with other healthcare settings, ophthalmologist offices often use electronic health record software. As a result, ophthalmic medical assistants should be familiar with computers and how to use any relevant software.
  • Being a quick learner. Because each particular workplace may require different tasks, it is important to be able to quickly learn new skills and procedures. In addition, instruments are often updated, meaning ophthalmic medical assistants will need to learn how to use the new equipment. 

Ophthalmic Medical Assistant Salaries & Job Outlook

Ophthalmic medical assistants make an average annual salary of $45,673, which is around $22.84 per hour. They can generally expect salaries ranging from $41,000 to $61,000

The exact amount, however, will depend on factors such as location, workplace, and level of experience.

They tend to earn more than unspecialized medical assistants, who earn an average annual salary of $37,190. Ophthalmic medical assistants are actually some of 

Medical assistant job outlook statistics show that medical assistant jobs are expected to increase by 16% over the next decade, which is much faster than the average rate for all jobs. 

How to Become an Ophthalmic Medical Assistant  

Becoming an ophthalmic medical assistant is similar to becoming a regular medical assistant. Here are the steps to becoming an ophthalmic medical assistant:

1) Obtain your high school diploma or GED

In most states, the minimum requirement to work as an ophthalmic medical assistant is a high school diploma or equivalent. However, many employers prefer to hire applicants who have undergone additional education, such as a medical assistant training program.

2) Get the necessary training & education

Completing a medical assistant program can be helpful in learning the necessary skills to become a successful medical assistant. There are two main types of programs: associate’s degree and certificate in medical assistant.  

These programs are offered online or through postsecondary institutions. There are also ophthalmic medical assistant programs that are geared towards medical assistants who want to work in the ophthalmology or optometry field. 

3 – (Optional) Participate in an externship

A medical assistant externship is a great way to network and get firsthand experience. These opportunities are typically unpaid, however, they offer a valuable chance to experience what working as an ophthalmic medical assistant is like. 

In addition, participating in an externship looks good on your resume. Some training programs may include an externship component in their curriculum. 

4 – (Optional) Get certified

Although not required, earning a medical assistant certification is an excellent way to boost your resume, improve your skills, and open up career opportunities. You will need to meet the eligibility requirements and pass a certification exam in order to become certified. 

There are various certifications for medical assistants such as Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA), Registered Medical Assistant (RMA), and Certified Medical Assistant (CMA)

The International Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO) offers a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) certification for medical assistants looking to work in an eye care field, as well. 

5) Search for a job

The easiest way to look for open positions in your area is to use job search sites such as Indeed and Glassdoor. Pay particular attention to the job description and requirements. Alternatively, you can also contact local private practices or clinics to see if there are any openings.

See Other Medical Assistant Specialties

Check out some of our other guides on medical assistant specialties to see if a different one may be right for you:

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