The topic of today’s post is the most searched term that brings people to my little blog, so I thought I would directly answer the question, “How do I become an optometrist.”
Here are the steps as I see them:
Go to college and major in any field you want. You will be required to take prerequisite courses before entering optometry school, and most of these courses are taken during a biology-type major. But, you can major in statistics or Spanish, but it will take extra time to graduate AND get all the optometry school prereqs. Don’t let that put you off because if you don’t get into optometry school, you will want a degree that you can use to do something you love. About the only thing you can do with a biology degree besides work for the federal government is work at McDonalds.
The summer after your second or third year of college, take the OAT and score well. Make sure you check the option to have your scores released to all the optometry schools that you are considering.
As part of your optometry school application, you have to observe a few optometrists in different practice settings (private, government, research/academic, commercial) for around 30 hours. This takes time, so schedule ahead before your application becomes due. It’s also very important because you may discover that being an optometrist is not for you. That’s a good lesson to learn before you spend huge amounts of money becoming one.
If you still want to be an optometrist, get your application together and send it in when your fourth year of college starts. There are usually essay questions and a personal statement. Try not to write anything naive. You’ll also need to round up all your official college transcripts. Hopefully you are a fine human being and have cultivated outstanding personal, academic, and work references. I threw in a clergy reference as well. Each optometry school might have a slightly difference process, so please read their website like the careful, well-educated person you are.
Interested schools will call you up and schedule an interview usually starting around January. You will have to pay your own travel, food, and accomodations, so if you get a lot of interview requests, you may want to prioritize them if you don’t have unlimited funds and time. By the way, do well at the interview.
Wait for all the offers to pile in, and accept the one you want. I would pray about it. It’s a big decision.
Spend big money to attend optometry school and pay attention because there is a test later. Spend some more money on your own optometry equipment and reference books.
Work with a professor that you respect to plan, execute, and write a thesis project during your second year of optometry school.
Pay your money to take the NBEO 3-part testing and do well.
During your fourth year of optometry school, you will travel around to different preceptorship sites. You can focus on the type of settings you would like to work in, or better yet, experience several different settings to give you more experience if your preferred setting doesn’t work out right out of school.
If interested in specializing, you can do an optional optometry residency. During your fourth year you will apply and then be invited to interview for residencies. They are preferred for several modes of practice like government, academia, and LASIK centers. You’ll learn more about this and be able to make an informed decision after being in optometry school.
Graduate from optometry school
Apply for optometry licenses in the state(s) you wish to practice in.
Congrats, you would then be a practicing optometrist. For those of you counting at home, that was a minimum eight years of your life after graduating high school. I wish you luck in your quest to find a job and be happy with your career.
Before you can start working, you will need spend money on a license, malpractice insurance, perhaps a DEA number, and apply for all the insurance panels you want to take. If you decide to work for yourself instead of someone else, you’ll need to take care of a whole bunch of business related stuff that is beyond the scope of this post.
Don’t forget you will need to spend a whole bunch of money every year in the racket known as continuing education conventions.
Kevin, M.D. brings up the point that most doctors don’t e-mail their patients because of privacy laws. Another doctor getting a lot of press for his new practice style, Jay Parkinson, flaunts that he can do whatever he wants since he doesn’t take insurance.
Wow, makes me want to not take any insurance; however, I DO think that we can e-mail our patients as long as HIPAA rules are maintained. It’s my understanding that as long as the data is encrypted, we can communicate confidential information with patients. On my practice website, patients can e-mail me using a form. This form can be optionally encrypted before sending if they have confidential information to share.
This is all done using my public key. Only my private key with its password can decrypt the message. I didn’t go to the HIPAA Security Company store and buy it. It’s totally free if you know how. While I believe this system complies with the intent of HIPAA regulations, I can’t e-mail back a patient if they haven’t made themselves a cryptographic key pair for e-mail. I’ll bet only a very small percentage of people in the world even have one, and I’ll bet the percentage of doctors that have encrypted e-mail is even less than the general population. But I did it. It’s do-able. Sure, I’m a computer geek, but I learned computers the same way I learned eye doctoring; study and practice.
But the obscurity/confusion of how to implement encrypted e-mail communications is not the real reason doctors don’t use it. I don’t get paid to sit around and e-mail patients. I get paid for examining patients at the office. On-line communication tools work well for Dr. Parkinson since that is his mode of practice. But my patients don’t pay me a subscription, so any e-mail that I have with them would most likely say something like, “I would recommend you come in for an appointment.”
By the way, I’ve had this encrypted form feature on my website for over 18 months, and no one has ever used it nor have they used my public key to send me an encrypted e-mail.