Job Description

Retail Dispensing

Retail stores are the most common workplace for Canadian opticians. Some opticians own their own retail dispensaries and may have a single practice or multiple locations. A ‘chain’ of dispensaries is a common reference to one store with multiple locations. Large optical chains with national and international outlets also employ many licensed opticians.

The owner of a retail dispensary may choose to serve a specialty market such as the dispensing of high end custom frames. Some retailers have even focused their business on providing mobile dispensing services. These companies employ opticians who travel to remote areas and to home-bound patients who cannot travel to a dispensary. Other opticians may opt to serve unique visual needs such as low vision, specialty contact lens fitting, or post-surgical treatments.

A newer business model for opticians is a fusion of traditional retail dispensing combined with internet selling. In this model the patient’s relationship with an optician begins online and once the device has been delivered to the retail location, dispensing is completed in person with another optician.

Managing the Patient’s Best Interest in a Retail Setting

Opticians working in a retail environment must constantly balance their retail responsibilities with their responsibility to public health. Opticians provide patient education and facilitate decision-making by skilfully matching patient requirements with prescriptive, anatomical, budgetary and lifestyle concerns. The product or service an optician suggests to a patient, must always be recommended and dispensed because it serves the patient’s best interests. Optional features should be carefully explained the patient.

Optician Hourly Rate (Canada)


What Opticians Do in Every Day Practice

Patient History

A patient history is all of the relevant personal, health, optical health, and lifestyle information an optician must collect in order to have a complete file and best serve their patient. Opticians use the information collected to make recommendations on options like frames, lenses and coatings, and contact lenses. Complete record keeping, including a complete patient history for every patient, is a very important function of an optician.

Finding the Right Products

There is no single product that will serve all of the needs of all of the patients. Opticians must keep up-to-date on their knowledge of current and emerging product technology. From that variety of options, they must find solutions that are tailored to provide the best vision for each patient.

Measuring and Ordering

Accurate measurements are essential to ensure a patient gets the best visual outcome from their glasses, contact lenses, or low vision aids. It is the opticians responsibility to measure accurately. Measurements must then be carefully documented to be communicated to anyone involved in the finishing process, such as lab technicians or other opticians in their practice.

Checking and Verifying

Once an order is complete, opticians must also verify the accuracy of the finished product before dispensing it to their patient. Using professional standards, also known as tolerances, the optician will make sure every aspect of the final product matches the original order.

Fitting and Dispensing

Once an order for eyeglasses or contact lenses has been verified for accuracy, the optician can perform the final fitting and dispense the product(s) to the patient.

In the case of eyeglasses, the optician will:

  • assess what adjustments must be made to the frame so that the glasses rest firmly and comfortably on the patient’s face
  • make the necessary adjustments using a variety of tools including screwdrivers, pliers, rasps and frame heating devices
  • verify that the patient meets the expected visual acuity with the new glasses
  • explain to the patient their visual expectations and any limitations of their new eyeglasses
  • educate the patient about the care and maintenance of their new eyeglasses

The dispensing procedures for contact lenses will vary depending on many factors including the patient’s contact lens history, and the style of the contact lenses. For more information on the dispensing of contact lenses, refer to the section below on “Contact Lenses”.

Contact Lenses

The first appointment with a contact lens patient includes taking a detailed patient history, and discussing patient expectations. The optician will also perform assessments such as a bio-microscopic survey of the corneal surface, tear volume and blink rate to assess whether or not the patient is a good candidate for contact lenses. If the patient is a good candidate for contact lenses, the optician will then take a series of measurements required for contact lenses to fit well.

Based on the above measurements and assessments the optician will select a trial contact lens that theoretically meets the patients requirements. Following a short period of adaptation the optician will assess lens movement, visual acuity and patient comfort. The optician may have to perform a series of trial fits during the first appointment, or over several follow-up appointments in order to find the best contact lenses for each patient.

Once the optician has found the best contact lenses for the patient, the contacts can be ordered, verified, and dispensed to the patient.

When dispensing contact lenses, it is important for the optician to make sure the patient:

  • has been trained on how to insert and remove the contact lenses
  • understands how to care for the contact lenses
  • has the necessary accessories for the contacts (including a case, cleaning solutions, etc.)
  • knows when to book a follow-up appointment with their optician

Low Vision

If glasses or contact lenses are not enough, opticians can help with a combination of low vision aids. Licensed opticians help provide low vision aids to the visually impaired, to make reading easier and more enjoyable. Specially trained opticians will consult with visually impaired clients and choose the best combination of vision aids for that individual’s specific limitations. Devices can vary from simple hand-held magnifying lenses to high-tech computerized or electronic systems.

This is an exciting and challenging area of specialty for opticians and one that brings great reward for both patient and optician. The growing number of seniors in our population also makes this demographic an important patient group.


Canadian opticians who are registered in Alberta and British Columbia are able to provide automated refracting services for patients. Refracting remains outside the scope of practice for opticians in the other eight provinces. However, it is still important for all opticians to understand the refracting process.

Currently, opticians who do refract conduct automated refractions for the purpose of assessing visual acuity according to the limits and conditions laid out in the opticians regulations. Opticians with this designation have completed educational programs and the certification examinations required by their regulatory college. The results of the assessment may be used by a patient to purchase eyeglasses and/or be fitted with contact lenses.

Infection Control

Infection control refers to any measures an optician takes to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria within their office. Patients have a reasonable expectation that an optician will provide a safe and healthy environment for them. In particular they should be able to assume that the products they try on and the surfaces they might come in contact with have been appropriately sanitized. It is the responsibility of opticians to see that an infection control procedure is in place and that they willingly participate in infection control.

Competency Requirements for Canadian Opticians

If you want more specific information about what Canadian opticians are expected to know, you can find it in the National Competencies produced by NACOR (National Association of Canadian Opticianry Regulators).

This document outlines skills and standards that newly graduated opticians would acquire before entering the profession. It also provides an understanding of the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for competent practice of opticianry in Canada.


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