Opticians promote eye health and work with the public and other optical health professionals to give patients the best possible vision. They assess lifestyle requirements, such as hobbies and occupation, to figure out what kind of lenses and frames are best. Opticians can also fit and dispense contact lenses, and recommend a variety of low-vision aids. Opticians do much more than just “sell glasses.”
An optician’s job is to use their knowledge and skills to improve a patient’s visual health and well-being. Opticians need to provide quality ophthalmic services and must also be honest and impartial when serving a patient. As a result of this honesty, a patient’s health and well-being always come first, and selling a product comes second. All recommendations made for glasses, contact lenses, and low vision aids should be in the interest of comfort and utility, giving patients the best visual experience.
There are two ways to become an optician in Canada: completing the PLAR process or attending an accredited program.
If you do not have prior experience or training, the best way to build the skills and knowledge required to become a licensed optician in Canada is to complete an accredited educational program. Accredited programs are required to meet rigorous standards that ensure opticians are properly trained as experts in their field.
Accredited programs are required to meet rigorous standards that ensure opticians are properly trained as experts in their field.
An example of an unaccredited program would be a training program offered in a country outside of Canada. Another example would be a program in Canada that has not been accredited. Some unaccredited programs offer quick study courses that claim to train students to be opticians, but there is a lot more involved in that training than a course can teach you in such a short amount of time.
For this reason, we recommend that individuals who are interested in becoming opticians and have no prior experience or education in a related field should apply to an accredited optician program.
However, if you have attended an unaccredited training institution or have a background in optics or health care, you may be eligible to become an optician through the PLAR process.
WHAT IS PLAR?
If you have successfully completed optician training at an accredited post-secondary institution in Canada, or have completed PLAR, you are eligible to challenge the national licensing exam for opticians. The National Optical Sciences Examination is a practical exam, often referred to as the NACOR exam because it is administered by the National Alliance of Canadian Optician Regulators (NACOR).
To find out more information about the national exam and how to apply, you can visit the NACOR website or the regulatory body for opticians in your province.
The requirements for the province of Quebec have some differences. For information on the prior learning assessment and recognition process in the province of Quebec. Please refer to the OODQ page (Order of dispensing opticians of Quebec): Study program of Quebec
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE NACOR EXAM?
HEALTH CARE REGULATION IN CANADA
REGISTERING AS AN OPTICIAN
WHAT IS SELF-REGULATION?
Self-regulation also implies that each individual optician is responsible to ensure that the provision of care is safe and ethical at all times. Belonging to a health profession is a privilege. It signals to the public that they are seeing a licensed professional and will be receiving a certain quality of care. With the privilege of self-regulation comes the responsibility to promote and support the profession.
Opticians make a commitment to continuing competency and lifelong learning. For example, opticians take learning courses online, attend conferences and seminars, establish study groups with their colleagues, and much more!
Opticians are also responsible for making sure all of their recommendations and actions are patient-centered. Effective communication between an optician and a patient is essential to provide the best care. Because Canada is a multi-ethnic country where words and phrases can have different meanings to different people, opticians often need to use different techniques to make sure each patient understands the services and/or products they are discussing.
PROVINCIAL REGULATORY BODIES
Self-regulated professions are overseen by a professional regulatory body. The regulatory body’s purpose is to ensure that all individuals seeking entry to practice and maintaining registration are competent and ethical professionals. The responsibilities of the regulatory body include:
- Establishing registration requirements
- Setting and enforcing professional ethics
- Setting and enforcing standards of practice
- Assessing and recognizing optician education programs
- Addressing complaints about opticians through inquiry and discipline
- Establishing and monitoring quality assurance
There are 10 regulatory bodies for opticians in Canada; one for each province.
REGULATORY “COLLEGE” OR EDUCATIONAL “COLLEGE”?
- Verify the credentials of applicants
- License eligible registrants to practice
- Keep an updated roster of registrants
- Enforce Quality Assurance programs
- Investigate and resolve complaints
- Ensure the public is protected
- Provide post-secondary training
- May offer a variety of programs
- May facilitate accredited programs
- Administer examinations
- Provide credentials for graduates
- Do not oversee registered professionals