Orthoptist: job description

Last updated: 25 Jan 2023, 13:39

Orthoptists diagnose and treat the vision problems and eye abnormalities of patients of all ages, checking for evidence and symptoms of disease, injury or visual defects.

Close-up of a human eye showing detailed iris texture, relevant to orthoptist work.

Orthoptics is a relatively small, all-graduate profession.

What does an orthoptist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Orthoptists see patients of all ages who have been referred to them by general practitioners, health visitors, consultants working in hospital eye clinics, and from eye casualty departments and community clinics.

Typical job responsibilities include:

  • gaining case histories from patients
  • observing and checking patients’ vision
  • making use of specialist equipment
  • referring patients to doctors for specialist treatment or surgery
  • treating vision problems with devices such as patches or specialist glasses
  • diagnosing sight problems and producing treatment plans
  • liaising with nursing and medical staff
  • keeping up to date with new techniques and developments
  • providing information to patients about diagnoses and required treatment
  • offering advice about lighting and magnification strategies for patients with low vision
  • running specialist clinics for issues such as glaucoma, strokes and low vision, supporting rehabilitation or monitoring long-term conditions as appropriate
  • assessing the vision of babies and small children, including children with special needs
  • spotting serious conditions of which vision problems can be a symptom, such as tumours or multiple sclerosis

Typical employers of orthoptists

  • The NHS
  • Eye hospitals
  • Hospital eye departments
  • Community orthoptic services (that provide vision screening in health clinics and schools)
  • University departments
  • Private practices

Vacancies are advertised online, by careers services and specialist publications, in newspapers, on NHS trust websites and on NHS Jobs , and on the website of the British and Irish Orthoptists Society .

Qualifications and training required

You can only practise as an orthoptist if you are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). in order to be eligible to register you must first complete an orthoptics degree approved by the HCPC.

Candidates normally need two or three A levels, including a science, and five good GCSE grades, including English language, maths and science, or alternative equivalent qualifications. If possible, it is helpful to spend some time with a registered orthoptist to see what the work is like.

Key skills for orthoptists

  • Adaptability
  • Good communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Able to explain treatment to patients
  • Organisational skills
  • Teamworking skills
  • Self-motivation
  • Maturity
  • Patience
  • Confidence
  • Resilience
  • Diplomacy
  • Attention to detail

It is also important to possess empathy and the ability to handle emotionally volatile situations.

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