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What Skills does an Ophthalmic Nurse need?

Career News August 11, 2013

Nurses who want to specialize may find a career as an ophthalmic nurse to be one worth pursuing. Most opportunities exist in ambulatory surgery centers, hospitals, ophthalmology clinics, charitable organizations and working with the blind.

Skills needed by an Ophthalmic Nurse

Working in an ophthalmology office or clinic involves direct patient care. Duties include conducting preliminary eye examinations prior to the patient being examined by the ophthalmologist. This usually includes taking the patient’s ocular pressure, conducting a preliminary vision exam, applying eye drops and performing assessment tests.

Patient education is a large part of the ophthalmic nurse’s job. Most medical conditions exist that cause eye problems. For example, glaucoma is an eye disease that may be a natural part of the aging process or it may be caused by side effects of certain medications.

High blood pressure, trauma, diabetes and other medical conditions and disorders can also cause eye diseases or disorders. Ophthalmic nurses need to have knowledge of the underlying diseases, so they can help patients understand their medical condition and how it is affecting the problems with their eyes.

Most ophthalmic patients are losing their sight, have severely impaired vision or are already blind. The nurse will be able to direct them to resources designed to help patients adjust and live with their visual disability.

The Ophthalmic Surgical Nurse in an Eye Surgery Center

Working in an eye surgery center involves performing all the preoperative and postoperative duties of an operating room nurse. The nurse must obtain a detailed medical history, including whether or not the patient has any medication allergies. Ophthalmic nurses are responsible for explaining to patients what to expect both before, during and after the procedure. Nurses explain what follow-up care is needed and what medications are required. Nurses assist the ophthalmologist with the surgical procedure by properly positioning the patient and assisting the eye surgeon with the instruments.

Employment with Organizations that provide Service to those with Low Vision

There are a number of organizations that provide services to those who are blind or have low vision. An ophthalmic nurse interested in offering educational assistance and helping those types of patients cope with their disability can find employment in one of these areas. A good resource to begin a job search is with the American Council for the Blind.

How to Become an Ophthalmic Nurse Specialist

The first step is to become a registered nurse. This requires completing a nursing degree and then taking the state licensing exam. Most registered nurses are able to find employment in an ophthalmology clinic or surgery center and be trained on-the-job on how to be an ophthalmic nurse.

A registered nurse can become a Certified Ophthalmic Registered Nurse (ORN) by passing a test administered by the National Certifying Board for Ophthalmic Registered Nurses. The test requires detailed knowledge of ophthalmic conditions and pharmacology as it relates to the eye. Other topics include appropriate ophthalmic assessments and nursing interventions.

Career Opportunity Outlook

The career outlook for ophthalmic nurses is good, and the demand for this specialty nurse is increasing. Certain ophthalmic conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration are more prevalent in an aging population. As a result, the aging baby boomer population is increasing the demand for ophthalmic services in general, which in turn, increases the demand for ophthalmic specialty nurses.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an ophthalmic nurse is currently approximately $64,000 annually.

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