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Understanding Members of Your Eye Care Team

When you visit an eye care clinic you may meet a number of professionals that participate in your experience. Due to the various roles, degrees, certifications, and titles it can be challenging to know who does what and what their experience is. Here, we will discuss a few of those roles and try to demystify the team that works as a unit to ensure you enjoy the best vision possible.



An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor (MD) who specializes in medical and surgical care of the eye and its surrounding structures. The path to ophthalmology, after college, includes 4 years of medical school and then 4 years of residency training dedicated to the medical and surgical treatment of eye disease. Many ophthalmologists pursue a fellowship, which is a 1-2 year program of additional sub-specialization focusing on a certain subset of diseases and surgery. Surgical care of the eye delivered by these doctors may include laser, injection, and incisional surgery, all of which are unique and specific to ophthalmology training. They often work with primary care physicians as well as other medical specialists to manage interrelated medical and surgical challenges in a multidisciplinary way.



An optometrist holds a doctoral degree specific to eye care. Optometrists specialize in medical care of the eye as well as the fitting and dispensing of contact lenses and glasses. After college, Optometrists spend 4 years in graduate school to obtain their Optometric Doctor (OD) degree. Some, including a few of our optometrists at Glacier Eye Clinic, spend another 6-12 months to further specialize in various aspects of medical eye care. These highly trained doctors are able to medically manage many eye diseases and work together with ophthalmologists to manage challenging eye conditions as well as assist in pre and post operative care. Optometrists are an essential part of the best eye care systems and are often the ideal provider with whom to begin the care of your vision.



This group of professionals are the engine of clinical care in an eye clinic. Technicians are trained to obtain medical information, perform diagnostic tests, assist in procedures, and help the doctors understand patient needs. There are a variety of certifications that these technicians can achieve: certified ophthalmic assistance (COA), certified ophthalmic technician (COT), and certified ophthalmic medical technician (COMT). Some of our technicians also serve as ophthalmic medical scribes and patient care coordinators. You will often spend a large portion of your visit with one of these amazing individuals without whom it would not be possible for the ophthalmologists and optometrists to deliver the best possible care.



Often, an excellent pair of glasses are needed to achieve the vision you want. Opticians are the team members best suited to help you with this process. Opticians are trained to obtain measurements of the eyes and face, fit glasses, read glasses prescriptions, grind the lenses put into frames, understand your goals to help you get the glasses you need and much more. Many of our opticians have received nationally recognized optical certifications, which allows them to help you at the highest possible level. Not only do they understand the technical details of this challenging role but they also have an excellent sense of looks and fashion.



There are many roles and responsibilities in the eye clinic, only a few of which are highlighted here. Each of these individuals is essential to a well-coordinated and patient-centered team. We hope this helps you understand a little bit about who each of these professionals are and how they can help you.