Jobs 101: Optometrist
They help us see the world better and clearer when our eyes decide to go blurry on us. This week, we learn about what an optometrist does.
In a myopic city like Singapore, they are our saviours. Without them, many of us (including me) will probably be pressing our faces against the screen just to read this. They help us see the world better and clearer when our eyes decide to go blurry on us.
This week, Youth.SG visited Mr Jason Wong at Mee Mee Eyecare to learn more about being an optometrist.
Jason shared with us how he not only helps to improve and maintain his patients’ eye health, but detects other health conditions as well.
WHO: Jason Wong, 26
OCCUPATION: Optometrist at Mee Mee Eyecare
STUDIED: Diploma in Optometry (Singapore Polytechnic), Master of Science in Clinical Optometry (USA)
At Mee Mee Eyecare where he has been working since his polytechnic’s work attachment in 2004, Jason works as an optometrist.
We learnt more about Jason and his experience as an optometrist:
Tell us about yourself.
I like reading and outdoor activities such as diving. Sometimes during off days or when I have time, I go diving with my friends.
My interest (in optometry) is in ocular pathology. I focus my eye examinations on the health aspects of the patient’s eye, looking out for sight threatening conditions like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, cornea infections and other conditions that may affect vision like diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
How did you become an optometrist?
Well, it was by chance. When we chose our courses during secondary school, I was not very sure what to choose. I consulted my teacher and from there, I realised that I like science. So my teacher introduced me some courses which involved science and biology knowledge, such as optometry, biomedical engineering and biomedical sciences.
In the end, I chose optometry because I thought it was interesting. I went on to do a diploma in optometry.
Can you tell us more about what an optometrist does?
We are primary eye care specialists. We do eye screenings and eye examinations for patients; we detect (eye) diseases and fitting of contact lenses. We also educate patients on how to maintain eye health.
Additionally, we learn about medication and how to manage different kinds of ocular conditions or eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataract.
How is an optometrist different from opticians and ophthalmologists?
Opticians are the front-line people who handle customers needing help with spectacles. For example: making and fitting of spectacles.
Ophthalmologists are medical practitioners who do surgeries like Lasik (Laser eye surgery to correct myopia).
An optometrist is like the ‘in between’ of opticians and ophthalmologists. We diagnose, manage and treat certain eye conditions but if patients need medical or surgical help, we will work with ophthalmologists to help them. We work very closely with ophthalmologists most of the time.
Describe a typical day at work.
When customers come in, I will conduct an (eye) examination for them to understand what they actually need and what kind of services they want. We will also do a general eye health check for them. After that, we go on to assist them with whatever services they need. On an average day, I get about seven or eight customers.
Here are some photos to show you what Jason does during a typical day at work:
Are there any unexpected things that will happen during the job?
Sometimes, when we do a (eye) check for customers, we can detect health conditions that they are unaware of. For example, conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure may affect the vision. In a way, it may help the patients in the long run when we detect these conditions. These are some of the things an optometrist has to be prepared for.
What are some challenges you face as an optometrist?
I get frustrated when my customers still cannot see very clearly no matter what I do. But it is a challenge because this is when my ‘training’ starts and my expertise kicks in. I will check for any eye conditions and if I still cannot treat them, I will refer them to an ophthalmologist.
Another challenge is to be constantly updated with technological and medical advancements so I can better cater to customers’ needs.
I also need to sacrifice time with my family as retail hours are quite long.
Can you share with us some memorable experiences you had as an optometrist and why you found them memorable?
The most interesting and memorable experiences come from my screening examinations for the public.
When I was still in polytechnic, I went to Thailand to do an eye screening for some villagers. Because they were poor, they could not afford to get a good pair of spectacles to help them see clearly. We brought donated spectacles over to them and after the screening, we prescribed them suitable pairs.
I got a strong sense of satisfaction when I saw their happy faces after they received their spectacles. I felt that I made a difference in their lives by improving their vision and in turn, their lifestyle. I still do similar local and overseas community screenings, with various groups and associations.
How long have you been in this industry and how has it changed over the years?
I have been in this industry for about five or six years.
The industry has changed quite a bit, especially with technological advancements in products, the quality of the materials used, and the various equipment and technological treatments. It improves our services for customers.
Although the industry is pretty small, it is not really very competitive as we focus more on the well-being of our patients than trying to win our competitors.
As the population in Singapore is aging, we do encounter more problems with vision, especially from the elderly.
What motivates you in your work?
It motivates me when I see the happy faces of customers after they can see clearly. Knowing that I have improved their lifestyle, there is a sense of satisfaction, making all the sacrifices worth it.
What advice do you have for aspiring optometrists?
Be passionate in what you are doing. It is an advantage if you like to meet and interact with people. Sometimes there will be challenges but once you overcome them, you will gain a sense of achievement. It helps if you have an interest in science.
Being an optometrist:
|Educational requirements: Diploma in Optometry (or equivalent) and registered with the Optometrists and Opticians Board.
Qualities of a good optometrist: Outgoing personality—good communication, interpersonal and people skills, updated with technological and medical advancements.
Working hours: About 12 hours a day, depending on retail hours and on the outlet‘s shift duties. It’s office hours for hospital work or research and development.
Salary range: $2,000 to $4,000 for a diploma holder and increases with higher certificates and more experience.
Career prospects/advancements: Optician, ophthalmologist, optometrists (junior/senior).
Specialisations: Research and development, professional affairs, hospital, retail.