Making the Case for Certification

Consider certification in your plans for the future.


Making the Case for Certification

More than a reward, certification is a plan for the future.


Sergina Flaherty, COMT, San Antonio, Texas

I had just completed six weeks of classroom training and landed my first gig as an ophthalmic assistant, when I first saw my office manager’s JCAHPO certification hanging on the wall. She explained what a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA) certification was all about and how she became certified. I could tell by her enthusiasm that she was very proud of this accomplishment. I vowed then and there to earn the same certification. I applied to take the AAO independent home study course and, one year later, passed the COA test. Now, I had my own certificate to display.

When my certification helped me earn a promotion, I realized its value. That’s when I decided to take the next step up. I worked and studied to earn my Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT) certification. Seven years later, I finally achieved a Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (COMT) certification. Why did it take so long, you may ask? It was fear of failure. But, I overcame my fear and, after intense studying, I succeeded.

There are many reasons I chose to climb the ladder of certification: pride, confidence-building through studying, increased value to doctors and employers and increased quality care I could provide to patients. Certifications helped me view my profession as more than a job, It became a career and my life’s calling.

Avoiding certification is an easy trap to fall into. After all, you can easily find work without it. You may think you’re too busy as it is, or perhaps you fear you’re not intelligent enough. And if your employer doesn’t require it, you may not feel incentivized to obtain a certification. However, when the time for promotions and career advancements is upon you, it’s certifications that will separate you from the pack. Most doctors will increase your pay if they see that you are motivated to go that extra step.

The Value of Certification

In JCAHPO’s Criteria for Certification & Recertification it is written:

“Four out of five ophthalmologists agree that certified ophthalmic medical technicians (OMT) render their practice more productive. Studies have shown that certified OMT contribute more than noncertified personnel to the efficiency and quality of care in a practice. Just as in other professions, the value of certification and the importance of employing educated, trained, and qualified professionals should be a best practice in ophthalmology.”

The JCAHPO Commissioners state:

“Becoming certified allows you to become part of an elite group of more than 19,000 certified ophthalmic assistants, technicians, technologists, surgical assistants, and sonographers worldwide. The credentials you achieve are internationally recognized by physicians, employers, administrators, and patients. You will be recognized as a skilled, highly trained professional wherever you go. JCAHPO is acknowledged throughout ophthalmology as the source of professional certification for ophthalmic personnel. When you pass JCAHPO’s rigorous certification exams, employers and peers recognize your accomplishment as solid proof of your knowledge and skills. Many ophthalmic professionals tell us that becoming certified was one of the best and most important decisions they ever made. Whether you work in a private clinic, hospital, university, or military setting, certification sets you apart from others as an educated and highly trained professional. Your credential will earn respect, not just in clinical situations, but also in the community at large. By earning the credit you deserve and investing in yourself, career success is one step closer.”

Pros of getting certified

■ It shows that your skills are current.

■ You are displaying initiative when certifying is not required.

■ You are separating yourself from peers.

■ It verifies to the doctor/employer the certification provider is effectively validating your skills.

■ It keeps you valuable and marketable.

■ It raises the doctor’s confidence level when they need to move to newer technologies that the staff is ready for the challenge.

■ Provides you with personal satisfaction that you’ve mastered new material.

■ Increases quality patient care.

For information about JCAHPO certification requirements visit:

I believe all allied health personnel should become certified as soon as they are eligible. Credentials are more important than you think. Certification can say a lot about you both as a person and as a professional. It says you care enough about your career and role in the eye care field to prove you know your stuff! OP

images Ms. Flaherty is a Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist at Stone Oak Ophthalmology in San Antonio, Texas. She is owner of Ophthalmic Seminars of San Antonio and conducts instructional seminars to ophthalmic assistants and technicians in Texas and nationally. She is currently the JCAHPO representative on the board of Directors of the Association of Technical Personnel in Ophthalmology (ATPO). You contact Sergina by visiting her website