What Is an Optometry Residency?

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  • Written By: K. Kinsella
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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An optometry residency is a training period during which individuals with optometry degrees receive on-the-job training from licensed professionals. Residencies are often designed for individuals who wish to specialize in one area of optometry such as pediatric or geriatric care. In many instances, an optometry residency lasts for one year although training for complex procedures can take longer.

Optometry undergraduate students study the same kinds of science topics as other medical students and these include biology, chemistry and anatomy. Having completed an optometry degree, a student may have the option to take a licensing exam course. This entails attending a series of classes that are usually taught by licensed optometrists and it culminates in an examination that includes both written and practical components. Therefore, some optometrists begin work without completing residency courses. Laws in some countries require all optometry graduates to work as residents for a period of time before taking the licensing examination.


Someone involved in an optometry residency course works alongside a practicing optometrist and in many instances, residents are able to administer basic eye examinations. Patients are often asked to take simple reading tests that are designed to test the extent of their vision. Residents must use the results of these examinations to determine whether particular patients are long-sighted, shortsighted or are suffering from other minor vision problems. The resident must consult with a licensed optometrist before recommending a course of treatment for a patient and in most countries, only fully qualified optometrists are able to write prescriptions for glasses, contact lenses and other vision aids.

While some vision issues can be remedied with devices such as glasses, other problems require surgery. Optometrists are often able to perform minor procedures such as cataract removal while more complex operations may require hospitalization. During an optometry residency program, students may be asked to assist an optometrist during surgical procedures. In some instances, the students may be allowed to make incisions or to take an active part in other parts of the surgical process although the students must work under the direct supervision of a trained optometrist.

Aside from hands-on training, optometry residents must also study textbooks and attend seminars during which they are given information about diagnosing and treating various eye conditions. Additionally, residents also receive basic instruction in writing prescriptions and completing paperwork since many nations have strict rules pertaining to medical record keeping. The residency program may end with a written or practical examination and individuals who successfully complete the test are able to obtain licenses and start work as fully qualified optometrists.


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