NHS Scotland Guide to Careers as an Orthoptist
Orthoptists play a key role in managing eye problems, mainly those that affect the way the eyes move. The conditions are sometimes caused by an injury or they might be linked to a health problem, such as stroke or multiple sclerosis. Orthoptists see patients of all ages, but their skills are particularly important in helping children with problems such as lazy eye or squint.
As an Orthoptist, you would be an autonomous professional, with your own caseload of patients, but you would also be part of a highly skilled multi-disciplinary team. Patients would normally be referred to you by a Doctor.
Your management of patients might involve recommending additional lenses or prisms to spectacles, prescribing eye exercises or referring the patient for surgery. In some clinics, you would work with an Ophthalmologist to manage conditions such as glaucoma.
You would use special equipment to measure the pressure inside the eye, assess the field of vision and to carry out other testing procedures. Orthoptists often work with other health professionals such as Optometrists, Public Health Nurses (Health Visitors), Paediatricians and Neurologists.
You will need a high degree of professional expertise, which your training will provide. Also important are good organisational skills, patience, the ability to work alone and as part of a team, and the ability to relate well to adults and children.
A BSc in Orthoptics is now offered only at Liverpool and Sheffield Universities. The entrance requirements for both courses is four Highers at B grade Sheffield require five if they are obtained at two sittings.
On completion of the three-year degree you are then eligible to apply for the State Registration necessary to work as an Orthoptist in the NHS. Subject studies include anatomy, physiology, pathology, electrodiagnostics, paediatrics and neurology. Students also spend time on hospital placement, working under the supervision of a qualified Orthoptist.
Promotion leads first to a post as a senior Orthoptist and then to clinical management roles. After further study you might also become a Clinical Tutor or move into research or general health service management.
The British Orthoptic Society