Ophthalmic Nurse

Ophthalmic nurses provide nursing care for patients with disorders or diseases of the eye and for patients having or recovering from eye surgery. These patients may suffer from glaucoma, blindness, or other sight problems. Because ophthalmic nurses focus on certain health issues, they can work with many types and ages of patients, although the most commonly cared for patients are elderly.

Ophthalmic nurses can work in eye clinics, hospitals, or private ophthalmologists’ offices. They can work in an ambulatory surgery center, or in an inpatient unit of a hospital that sees eye trauma patients. They have to be prepared in some workplaces to handle emergencies, and must have the knowledge to recognize urgent cases and promptly decide on the method of care. Some of the many tasks these nurses might perform in any workplace include recording visual activity and ocular functions, examining the patient’s eye, checking the pupils, applying drops or ointment, as well as other standard assessment tasks such as checking blood pressure, or recording medical history. Educating the patient and informing them about examinations, procedures, medication or treatment is also a very important component to this job.

If you choose to pursue this specialty, you will need to take the appropriate educational path. You will need to become a licensed registered nurse in your state, which involves earning a nursing degree and then passing your states NCLEX exam (National Council Licensure Examination), given by the state’s board of nursing. You can earn your nursing degree in two to three years by obtaining an associate degree in nursing (ASN) from a vocational or community college, or you can take four years and earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Once you have your degree, you will need to get some nursing experience, or pursue continuing education or graduate education, one of which is needed to pursue certification as an Ophthalmic Registered Nurse. There are continuing education programs offered by the American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses (ASORN) as well, to compliment your nursing degree, if you did not focus on this area while earning your RN.

There is a national certifying board for ophthalmic registered nurses that developed the certification process. Certification promotes national standards for optimal ophthalmic care. It encourages professional growth and continuing education, demonstrates your commitment to the specialty, as well as your expertise and level of knowledge to patients and employers. In order to take the certification exam, you will need to not only be a registered nurse, but have a minimum of two years of clinical work experience in an ophthalmic nursing practice. There are many regional locations that offer the computerized exam and expect to pay a fee for the Ophthalmic Nurse certification exam. The content of the exam will cover ocular conditions, pharmacology, professional issues, assessment of an ophthalmic patient, and ophthalmic nursing interventions. Passing this exam and becoming a certified Ophthalmic Registered Nurse will again prove your dedication to this specialty and optimize your career advancement and earning potential. Once you are certified, there are also many regional chapters of the American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses, which can be helpful for networking, learning about the most current news and research developments in the field, as well as for continuing education opportunities.

There is great opportunity for growth in this specialty that parallels and even extends beyond the national demand for more nurses. Ophthalmic nurses are taking on more and more responsibility, often performing small tasks and duties that were traditionally done by doctors. The median annual salary for registered nurses according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $63,750. This will vary depending on your place of employment, geographic location, experience and education. Job security will be high, as these nurses are even more in demand than non-specialized nurses, and eye clinics often have trouble finding qualified candidates to fill their positions. Get started now by finding a Nursing Program in your area, and after just a few years of education and clinical work, you too can have a rewarding and advanced career in nursing. If you are already a Registered Nurse you maybe ready to pursue a master's degree in nursing. Try exploring these MSN programs offered throughout the country.

This article written by Lynn S., NSD contributing writer, 5/24/2010
(Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Ophthalmic Nurses Association, American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses, Ophthalmic nursing, by Rosalind Stollery and Mary E. Shaw, Agnes Lee)

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