By Maryann Santos, ABOM
Optical student applicants
As program director for Vision Care Technology (A.S. degree) at Goodwin College, I must identify the ideal skills, interests, and knowledge set that make a strong applicant to our program. Students who apply are recent high school graduates, career changers, or are in higher education with a desire to be in healthcare. An optician should be well versed in basic algebra, have mechanical dexterity, and a desire to work with people in a healthcare setting. After much reflection, I narrowed the ideal skills, interests, and knowledge set down to four categories: math, science, sales, and healthcare.
To be accepted into the program a student must have a C+ or better in Intermediate Algebra or a higher-level math course. Students who can apply mathematical principles with ease are naturally more successful in the program and as practicing opticians. Opticians use mathematical principles daily, sometimes without even realizing. Math is being applied when neutralizing a pair of eyeglasses on the lensometer, lining up a job for edging, or final inspection. Often times we need to transpose a spectacle prescription from plus to minus cylinder, convert a multifocal prescription to intermediate or near vision only, calculate slab off prism or compensate for vertex distance. We do all of this by using our math skills. For those opticians who fit contact lenses, math is used for gas permeable lens design, determining vertex compensation power, and modifying lens power after over refraction.
Students who have a curious mind and wonder how the human eye works, are ideal applicants to the program. Students with an interest in science tend to thrive in such courses as Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology of the Eye. Our biology course is demanding, but the knowledge gained is transferable to subsequent contact lens courses and applicable in the field. Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology of the Eye explain to students how the eye converts light into a visual image, anatomical and biological causes of refractive errors, as well as common eye disorders, and diseases of the eye and associated treatments.
At the end of the day, we are selling a product to a customer. To be successful as an optician it helps to enjoy working with people of various backgrounds and ages. In sales, one has to meet the customer’s needs and be a problem solver. In Goodwin College’s Optical Training Store, students apply “lifestyle dispensing.” Students learn how to get to know their customers/patients by listening to them and filling their optical needs. Opticianry is a multi-faceted profession in which one can work as an independent owner, for a corporate chain in the mall, in an optometric or ophthalmology office, or in a high-end or economy environment. Formal education allows the student to be able to know the “why” behind certain products and features to best serve the customer/patient.
Opticians are in a unique position as we work between the examining eye doctor and the consumer/patient. Students are drawn to the profession because of their interest in being part of healthcare, a desire to have direct patient care, and want to have an impact in patients’ lives by helping them see their best. Many ideal students are out there. Encourage them to join us in an exciting and rewarding field!