IN THIS, The Year of the Optician (as proclaimed by this author), opticianry still finds itself in a precarious state.
The profession continues to be undermined by the culture of our optical industry and the economic pressures imposed by retail employers. Yet the fact remains that, in order for this industry to thrive, those individuals who are on the front lines—opticians—are critical to success and growth. A compelling irony.
First Vision Media Group, the company that publishes VCPN, hosted a panel discussion and town hall meeting to tackle at least some of the issues facing opticians in 2011 during the recent Vision Expo East.
Moderated by Ed De Gennaro, the panel plunged head on into the hot topics: national licensure or at minimum certification for professional opticians; standardized continuing education; greater emphasis on professional education; and promotion of opticianry as a career option for young people.
What emerged throughout the course of the two-hour event was the need for one significant action item or event to set the profession on a positive course again—one seminal event that everyone will point to in retrospect and say “that was when opticians finally got their house in order.”
For this to happen, the leadership of the profession, armed with the support of their constituents and others in optical who are willing to lend their voices to the effort, must set aside their individual agendas and agree to tackle the larger issues. They will need to agree that no one gets up from the table until a plan of action is achieved.
During the Vision Expo East panel discussion, it was pointed out that optometry had faced a similar situation regarding the direction it would take. The plan to elevate optometry from a purely technical discipline to a more highly regarded health care profession began to take shape at a single meeting at a LaGuardia Airport hotel in New York City, on January 16, 1968.
Out of that meeting came the philosophical premise for what optometry has now become, a primary care profession that is ver much integrated into the overall health care system. The two-day event came to be known as “The Meeting that Changed the Profession.”
For the sake of opticianry’s future, The Vision Council has graciously offered its resources and facilities to assist in these next steps. For its part, First Vision Media Group has pledged to help expedite these efforts (FVMG will host future meetings and is now preparing a journalistic white paper on the state of opticianry).
All that needs to happen now is for opticianry’s leaders to take part.
(Note: Podcasts and photos from the panel discussion and town hall meeting, called “The Hope and Future for Opticianry,” are available at TotallyOptical.com/opticianry.)