This question strikes at the essence of what opticians do, how they’re trained, and the values they have regarding their profession. This month, the results of the largest-scale study to date (commissioned by the Opticianry Summit Steward Team) to address this issue were released at the Opticians Association of America’s State Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, NV.
The team was given the responsibility of implementing the goals and objectives developed by 60 leaders representing all the national opticianry organizations and other stakeholders at a meeting that took place in May 2012. Funded by a grant from The Vision Council, the study set out to discover the characteristics of high-performing opticians versus low-performing ones. A consultant from Purdue University developed a survey that was emailed to thousands of eye-care professionals in every retail setting, and more than 4,000 surveys were returned. The results from this study will hopefully have a significant and positive impact on our industry, which has to aggressively prepare for changes with proactive strategies and programs that will elevate opticianry to a more highly valued profession.
Currently, each opticianry organization works to advance ECPs from its own mission and perspective. Sometimes this results in groups working in different directions and occasionally at cross purposes. When organizations are not aligned toward a common goal, it can waste time, effort, resources, and result in a lack of progress. The 2012 summit was designed to enable participants to produce a shared vision of what opticianry should be by 2020 and create strategies for achieving that vision.
In order for opticians to take advantage of the future, they need to step up to the plate and create new national training programs and certifications. For example, opticianry needs a recognized national curriculum that trains optical managers and then certifies them for competency. This way, employers will know who is knowledgeable and who is not. There needs to be a national curriculum that includes technical study and demonstrated clinical practice that’s required before an optician can become certified. In addition, there should be several levels of certification in order to create a career ladder.
It’s no secret that opticianry seems to be stalled. Most opticians lament that there has been little professional progress for decades. The fact that our community came together and formed the Opticianry Summit Steward Team to create a practical strategic plan and a commitment to action is very promising. I expect the study results to be a major topic of discussion for many months to come.
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