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Ever wondered what an orthoptist does?

This Orthoptics Awareness Week (27 February – 3 March) we reflect on the vital role of orthoptists and the relationship they share with ophthalmologists as part of the eye care team. Alanna Lyndon, an orthoptist based in Hobart, Tasmania tells us about her work.

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1. What do orthoptists do?
Orthoptists are university trained, allied health professionals who predominantly assist ophthalmologists by performing tests or measurements, which help them to diagnose and treat people with eye disease. An orthoptist’s role varies depending on the clinic or doctor they work for. Some specialties include paediatrics and eye movement disorders, low vision, refractive treatment or research.

2. How do orthoptists work with ophthalmologists?
In most cases, orthoptists perform the required vision assessment and tests needed prior to the ophthalmologist seeing the patient. Orthoptists also help with patient education, IOL calculations, managing clinic flow and liaising with medical or technical representatives. Traditionally an orthoptist’s role was limited to the non-surgical management of eye movement disorders, however as technology has advanced so too has our role.

3. Why did you choose orthoptics as a profession?
In high school we were encouraged to do work experience. At the time I was thinking about becoming a Physiotherapist. My next-door neighbour was an orthoptist and suggested I attend the eye clinic. I really liked the mix of working with children and the elderly.

4. What does your typical day look like?
Every day is busy! Most of my time is spent doing refractive and orthoptic assessments, field tests and angiograms. Our practice is involved in many research projects, so it is our job to conduct the tests required for this. Other times I assist in LASIK and cataract surgery.

5. What kind of patients do you work with most?
All kinds. Children with strabismus, young adults having LASIK and the elderly with glaucoma and macular degeneration. The variety is what makes the profession interesting.

6. As the theme for this year’s Orthoptics Awareness Week is Orthoptics Australia Wide, how would an orthoptist’s work in Tasmania differ from someone working in Sydney or Melbourne?
A clinic in a rural setting is very different. I’ve recently returned from working in Melbourne and have really noticed the change. The best thing about Tasmania is working alongside other health professionals such as registrars, registered nurses and ophthalmic technicians. In Tasmania I find I need to be a ‘jack of all trades’, being able to perform all tests required by the doctors. On the other hand, the large number of Specialist Doctors in Melbourne allows for orthoptists to focus on specific areas, such as retinal or refractive, and become highly specialised in those areas.

 

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