Today’s Nursing Visionaries: Is a Career In Optometry In Your Future?

By Felicity Dryer

There are many exciting opportunities in the nursing field, one of the many thousands of these careers is to literally become a visionary in their field by exploring opportunities in optometry. Vision is a vital part of everyone’s life and saving someone’s valuable eyesight through early diagnosis, prevention and treatment can be very rewarding.

According to WHO (World Health Organization), vision problems, eye diseases and other problems afflict both young and old, specifically:

  • About 65% of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, and this age group comprises about 20% of the world’s population.
  • An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired. Of those, 12 million of them have refractive errors, a condition that could be easily diagnosed and corrected.


One way to make an impact on the sight of young people is by becoming a school nurse. Many of

today’s up-and-coming healthcare professionals may not realize that a major part of a school nurse’s curriculum is comprised of routine eye examinations and annual vision checks. These important practices will help to ensure that children will excel in school if their valuable vision is kept in check and detecting early problems can actually lead to saving their eyesight.

If young vision problems are left undetected, WHO tells us that 1.4 million children become irreversibly blind for the rest of their lives and then they will need visual rehabilitation interventions for full psychological and personal development programs. All of this could have been prevented if problems were detected early and these children were given the proper medical treatment.


Critics of school eye exams often scold nurses for not performing a complete comprehensive examination, but they are not in their shoes and those critical optometrists are often seeking patients for their own practices. School nurses perform a wide variety of exams that include recognizing problems like:

  • Refractive errors: Nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, that are easily corrected with eyeglasses, contacts or refractive surgery.
  • Amblyopia: When one eye has much different vision compared to the other. The brain will “shut off” the image from the turned or blurry eye.
  • Strabismus: Crossed or turned eyes. The school nurse checks a child’s eye’s alignment to be sure that they are working together.
  • Eye teaming: Even if a child’s eyes appear to be properly aligned, it’s possible they don’t work together efficiently as a team. Such binocular vision problems can cause headaches, eye strain and other problems that can affect reading and other vision problems.
  • Focusing problems: These issues relate to developing focusing skills in children that can lead to presbyopia as they grow into adults.

School nurses work in conjunction with teachers and other administrators to recognize cognitive behavior that children will exhibit in school if they are struggling with vision problems. An inability to see the chalkboard, difficulty concentrating, headaches, and other problems that can be recognized by staff, including their valuable nurses.


As we continue to grow older, our eyes become more susceptible to age-related conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma. While checking the vision of older patients may seem to be confined to convalescent and nursing home environments, the scope of older eye care doesn’t end there. There are many environments in the medical field that encompass the care of elderly patients, so visionary nurses shouldn’t confine themselves inside of this tight circle.

Nurses compliment doctors in many ways and this includes the field of optometrics. During preliminary examinations for example, nurses often have the opportunity of being the first line of defense (actually offense), for diagnosing conditions that come with aging.

Nurses will recognize symptoms such as cloudy lenses, a precursor for cataracts, preliminary discussions of symptoms that come with macular degeneration like blind spots, blurry vision, a decrease in the recognition of colors, faces and an increasing difficulty in adapting to low light levels, sometimes called night vision. These are all diagnosed by nurses before the patients are even seen by their doctor or primary physicians.

Young or old, these patients can benefit from a qualified nurse that can diagnose their symptoms before they lose their valuable vision or even see their doctor. Is optometrics a possible career choice for you?

born in Flagstaff, Arizona, Felicity Dryer was raised by her parents
(more or less modern-day hippies) to always make her health a top
priority. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career as a freelance
health writer, and continues to help those seeking encouragement to keep
moving forward to achieve their goals.

Thanks Felicity!
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