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Retail stores are the most common workplace for Canadian opticians. Some opticians own their own retail dispensaries and may have a single practice or multiple locations. A 'chain' of dispensaries is a common reference to one store with multiple locations. Large optical chains with national and international outlets also employ many licensed opticians.
The owner of a retail dispensary may choose to serve a specialty market such as the dispensing of high end custom frames. Some retailers have even focused their business on providing mobile dispensing services. These companies employ opticians who travel to remote areas and to home-bound patients who cannot travel to a dispensary. Other opticians may opt to serve unique visual needs such as low vision, specialty contact lens fitting, or post-surgical treatments.
A newer business model for opticians is a fusion of traditional retail dispensing combined with internet selling. In this model the patient’s relationship with an optician begins online and once the device has been delivered to the retail location, dispensing is completed in person with another optician.
Managing the Patient’s Best Interest in a Retail Setting
Opticians working in a retail environment must constantly balance their retail responsibilities with their responsibility to public health. Opticians provide patient education and facilitate decision-making by skilfully matching patient requirements with prescriptive, anatomical, budgetary and lifestyle concerns. The product or service an optician suggests to a patient, must always be recommended and dispensed because it serves the patient’s best interests. Optional features should be carefully explained the patient.
A clinic setting may include a dedicated part of a retail dispensary where specialized dispensing functions take place. For example, a contact lens fitting room has the appearance of and functions as a treatment area rather than a retail area. Opticians in Alberta and British Columbia provide automated refracting services within their legislated scope of practices. These services are normally provided in rooms with specialized equipment similar to a contact lens fitting room.
When employed in a laser clinic an optician may dispense eyewear and, with training, experience, and mentoring of the laser surgeon, may take on further duties relative to pre and post-surgery assessments.
Opticians may also work in ophthalmology offices in pre-examination procedures such as refraction and tonometry. In Canada most ophthalmology practices do not dispense eyewear but some may offer contact lens services which may be performed by a contact lens fitting optician.
Opticians also perform dispensing duties in optometric dispensaries. Opticians usually perform the same sort of retail duties as take place in a retail setting but in an area that is within an optometric practice.
Career Growth Opportunities
Retail and Clinic Management
Opticians with aspirations for career growth and who have good organization and communication skill may have opportunities to apply for management, or administrative positions in retail dispensaries or clinics.
Opticians are also valuable assets to companies who form part of the supply chain for retail dispensaries and clinics. Opticians who become wholesale sales representatives have the training and experience to understand the front line optician’s challenges. Therefore, they better understand the products and services that are tailored to the unique needs of an optician. Wholesale sales people with no dispensing experience can certainly sell product to the optician but it takes them a long time to truly understand the dispensing environment. An optician can offer education and coaching about the product and its application.
An optician who is a gifted communicator, with an eagerness to inspire and educate fellow professionals could become a teacher, a mentor, a tutor or a lecturer. The accredited teaching institutions provide formal educational programs. These programs also have practical components that require the student to be matched with a professional mentor. As well, there are opportunities for lecturers/workshop leaders in the continuing education series'. If public speaking is not your strength you may wish to inspire and educate by writing articles for one of the dispensing journals, association or regulatory newsletters or for websites.
An Opticians Perspective
The following videos tell the story of the daily life of Canadian opticians by the opticians themselves.
has taught many Opticians and her message for Licensed Opticians is, "be proud of who you are as opticians, we are the expert in our field. We have the training and ability to provide our patients with the very best in eye care products and services."
explains how Licensed Opticians make a difference in everyone's life by coming up with the best solution to enhance people's vision.
is a second generation Licensed Optician. Here, she speaks about the miracle of contact lenses. It is amazing how far we have come where we can put this little piece of material on our eye and we can see well. Our eye is our world.
owns Granville Eyeland Framemakers, designing eyewear that tells a story. She encourages opticians to "find something that you're really good at, mastering it and becoming the best at it to create a name for yourself. Become a specialist and love what you do."
believes "there are few things that are as important as our vision." He brings passion to his career, considering each vision care consumer as an equation that requires sophisticated personalization in the design of their eyewear.
Karim Asaria describes his philanthropic efforts and how being a Licensed Optician has helped him to have a career based on sincerity, professionalism and compassion, and to support a cause that is very important to him.
from a small city in Alberta, describes how his father, a Licensed Optician, influenced his eventual career path. Dean developed a love of the profession from being surrounded by it in his childhood through his father's work. His father instilled in him the value of pride in workmanship.
who lives in Manitoba, talks about the evolution of Opticianry that she has experienced in her 40-year career as an Optician and a leader in the profession.