By Preston Fassel

It’s back to school time, and that means… well, lots of things, but one of those is getting kids a new pair of glasses.

While the late-Summer-early-Fall trip to the optometrist is a yearly tradition for families with children who wear glasses, this year, of course, is going to be a bit different: due to COVID restrictions, not only will the appointment itself be different, but so will the way patients use those glasses in the classroom. As patients roll into your practice either in preparation for a return to the classroom, or as they come in realizing from their experience at school that their Rx has changed, or some come in newly realizing they need an Rx, here are a few things to keep in mind to help make patients’ return to the classroom as safe and comfortable as possible:

  1. Mask Mandates: In many places, medical offices are mandating the continued wearing of masks regardless of state or local guidelines. Children are currently among the most vulnerable in the population, especially those who are too young to be vaccinated; protect them and other at-risk patients by mandating masks in-office.

  2. Schedule Staggering: In the interest of social distancing, schedule patients at appropriate intervals and have only as many patients in the office as necessary. You may request that only one parent of a minor child be in the office and/or room at once. They can take financial information home and discuss it among themselves, then return for a purchase at a later date.

  3. Take Masks into Account During Frame Styling: Some school districts are mandating wearing plastic face shields in addition to/in place of traditional medical or cloth masks. Ask your patients/their parents what masking looks like at their school and plan accordingly when choosing frames. Some larger styles may be uncomfortable beneath a plastic shield, while others that position the lenses further away from the patient’s nose and mouth may work better for those patients for whom fogging is an issue.

  4. Consider Anti-fog Treatments: Piggybacking onto the above, consider making an antifog treatment a part of your presentation when discussing lens treatments. While in previous years I only encouraged this for patients who specifically asked for it or who worked in environments where fogging was a consistent complaint/safety issue, fogging is a fact of life in a mask-wearing world, and you want your patients to be able to see the board and their work clearly at all times. Explain the benefits and have a demo kit on hand; perhaps a pair of anti-fog lenses in your own frames can demonstrate how yours stay clear through the appointment while your patients’ and their families’ don’t.

  5. Consider Lenses for Digital Devices: Many districts are utilizing computers in-class to help maintain social distancing, and some districts are using hybrid programs in which students attend school remotely a certain number of days a week. What’s more, some of your patients may still rely on Zoom and other video chat programs to stay in contact with friends and loved ones. All this translates to students being in front of digital devices many hours a day. Consider making a discussion about HEV or digital eyestrain-reducing lenses a part of your presentation, either for the patient’s everyday pair or to encourage second pair sales. You may even offer a buy one, get-one-half-off promotion for a second pair designed specifically to ease digital eye strain.
We’re still living in an uncertain time; as opticians, we’re in a unique position to make the transition back to our new normal easier, more comfortable, and more reassuring for our patients. Comfort can come from the smallest and most insignificant seeming of places. Be the resource your patients need, and you’ll not only earn and keep their loyalty, but give them gifts that see them through into the new year.

Learn the causes of digital eyestrain and how accommodative stress can produce a variety of symptoms with our CE, Our Eyes Weren’t Made for Screens, at