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A Day in the VIP Life: What Is an Optician? Q&A for People Considering an Ophthalmology Job


With more than 20 years of experience, Heather Strubberg, an optician at Pepose Vision Institute, knows the ins and outs of the field. We chatted with her to better understand the role of opticians and why it matters for your eye care. Let's dive in and uncover the essential tasks opticians handle and how they impact your vision health.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you as an optician?

A: I assist patients with styling glasses and educating them about the lens choices that best suit their lifestyle and prescription needs. As an optician, we teach patients how to put contacts in. These contact lenses range from soft contacts to specialty hard lenses. We spend anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours with a patient, with most appointments lasting about 30 minutes on average.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in optometry, and how did you become an optician?

A: After working evening shifts at a cleaning company, I wanted to find a career with more favorable hours. When a position at Walmart's shoe department for full-time work came up, I considered applying. However, my then-boyfriend, now husband, who worked in the automotive department, informed me of an opening in the optical department. 

Intrigued, I decided to attend the interview to explore the opportunity further. To my surprise, I was hired on the spot. This pivotal moment led me into the field of optometry. Fast-forward to March 30, 2024, which marks my 20th year in the industry.

Q: What qualifications and training are required to become an optician? Can you share your educational background and any certifications you hold?

A: In this field, you don't need fancy qualifications to start. Like learning to ride a bike, all it takes is a willingness to learn and focus. I've trained many beginners, and one of them is now a manager at the same optical store where I began my journey.

Q: What are some challenges you encounter in your day-to-day work, and how do you overcome them? 

A: Opticians encounter challenges such as fitting issues or discrepancies in prescription orders. The ability to analyze problems and find effective solutions is vital for success in this role. Providing them with excellent customer service and making sure the patient walks out happy is most important.

Q: What is your favorite part of your job? 

A: I enjoy making patients feel comfortable—like they're at home—even if I'm not feeling my best. I strive to make each day positive for my team and my patients, aiming to keep everyone happy.

Q: Can you share a memorable experience or patient interaction that stands out to you in your career?

A: I had a patient who I didn't know was a friend of Dr. [Jay] Pepose. I sold him a pair of glasses with new frames that had magnetic clips for sunglasses. During our conversation, he expressed his desire for glasses that didn't require constant switching but didn't want transition lenses. When I showed him the glasses with magnetic clips, he thought they were the coolest option. Upon receiving them, he was very excited.

The day I placed the order, he went straight to Dr. Pepose's wife and praised his experience with me. It made me feel good to have helped him just like any other patient, unaware of his personal connection to Dr. Pepose. This experience taught me that you never know who you might impact or leave an impression on.

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a career as an optician?

A: Being an optician is truly incredible. It involves a lot of learning at the start, but it leads to an amazing career. I continue to learn something new every day. In the optical field, it feels like being part of a close-knit family. It's surprising how often I run into familiar faces—it's such a small world. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities, whether it's working directly in the optical field or becoming a sales representative for frames or contacts.

Q: How do you prioritize patient care and ensure their needs are met during appointments? 

A: Engaging in active listening involves comprehending the unique needs and worries of every patient. This means attentively listening to their inquiries, suggestions, and choices throughout their visit. By doing so, we foster a positive rapport with our patients. Prioritizing tasks based on their urgency and significance aids in enhancing the delivery of patient care.

Q: Can you describe any specific skills or qualities that are essential for success as an optician? 

A: Opticians interact with patients daily, discussing their vision needs and assisting them in selecting the right eyewear. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are crucial for building their trust. Opticians should be patient, empathetic, and responsive to customer needs and concerns.

Q: What do you think sets Pepose Vision Institute, a VIP partner practice,  apart from others, in terms of patient care and service?

A: In our line of work, we encounter many patients who require medically necessary treatments. Before joining this team, I had little knowledge about handling such cases. Now, I'm tasked with training new associates on how to handle claims and billing for these patients. We specialize in fitting scleral hard lenses, which are crucial for many of our patients.

One common challenge we face is patients who aren't sure about their previous eyewear prescriptions. We take the time to educate them about different lens options and what would suit them best. It's fulfilling to see patients leave feeling more informed about their eyewear choices after making a purchase.

Q: Are there any misconceptions about optometry or being an optician that you would like to address? 

A:  In my experience, I've observed that many patients often confuse the roles of optometrists and opticians. Opticianry, in particular, is a skill that is often underestimated and misunderstood. When people hear "optician," they might think it's solely about selling glasses. However, our role encompasses much more than that. Opticians are trained professionals who specialize in designing, fitting, and dispensing eyeglasses and contact lenses based on prescriptions provided by optometrists.

Explore ophthalmology jobs at VIP.

If you're considering a career as an optician or another ophthalmology job, joining a Vision Integrated Partners' practice could be the perfect fit for you. Opticians play a vital role in providing precise vision solutions and enhancing patients' visual health and well-being. 

Opticians at VIP’s practices are valued for their expertise and dedication to delivering exceptional care. With access to advanced training opportunities, collaborative work environments, and the satisfaction of making a meaningful impact on patients' lives, becoming an optician at a VIP practice offers an exciting and fulfilling career path. 

If you're passionate about helping others see clearly and eager to contribute to a dynamic and supportive team, we encourage you to explore our available opportunities and apply to join us today.

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