What is an Optometrist or Kaimātai Whatu?

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Definition of an Optometrist

An Optometrist or Kaimātai Whatu is a trained professional who is able to diagnose and manage problems related to vision and the eyes. In the most situations,  an Optometrist:

  • undertakes thorough eye examinations for patients of all ages
  • uses sophisticated equipment and tests to determine visual status
  • provides prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses
  • prescribes medicine to treat certain eye diseases
  • communicates effectively to patients about the status of their eyes
  • gives advice on eye products

Optometrists may work in:

  • a clinic or hospital setting
  • academic positions in University
  • management roles such as owning their own practice

When to see an Optometrist

Even if you have no problems with your eyes or vision, you should see your local Optometrist routinely. This is usually once every 2 years but more often depending on your age, if you use contact lenses, or if there are any specific conditions with your eyes.

There are certain diseases that can cause blindness like glaucoma which have no noticeable symptoms at the early stages of the disease and can only be detected in an eye examination.

If you have noticed any change in your vision, new visual symptoms or any other problem related to your eyes, then seeing an Optometrist should be at the top of your priority list

How to become an Optometrist

Being a trained professional in regards to vision and eye health, an Optometrist is in expert in take care of you sight. This involves extensive training and study.

Training as an Optometrist in New Zealand involves:

  • qualifying with a degree in Bachelor of Optometry from University of Auckland, which is the only institution available in New Zealand that offers this type of study
  • studying a prior degree, although this is not necessarily
  • completing high school with subjects emphasising biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics

After study, additional requirements include:

  • in order to practice, must be registered with Optometrist and Dispensing Opticians Board and hold an Annual Practicing Certificate (APC)
  • every 2 years, completing a certain amount of continuing professional development (CPD) training
  • being subjected to routine audits

Further Clinical Focus

Optometry does not just stop at glasses and contact lenses. The occupation offers a much more diverse path.

Further focuses include:

  • Low vision
  • Advanced contact lenses
  • Dry eye
  • Glaucoma treatment
  • Vision therapy

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