Eyecare professionals want to hire the best qualified individuals who will make a positive contribution to quality of patient care. When hiring, they often look for certifications to assess whether individuals possess the skills and knowledge required for successful performance in their practices.
When you are certified in your field of expertise, it means you have met the standards that a third-party organization has established and verified. It means you are dedicated to maintaining quality and competency in your work on a regular basis. Certification speaks volumes about you as a professional; it demonstrates to your employer, and to the public, your commitment to your profession and your desire to learn and grow.
In the eyecare field, multiple certifications are available depending on the area in which you work. This article outlines some of the many different types of certifications available to you.
Allied Ophthalmic Personnel (AOP) are tasked to provide quality and reliable data to the patients they care for and the ophthalmologists they work with.
The certifying body for ophthalmic personnel is the International Joint Commission on Allied Personnel in Ophthalmology (IJCAHPO), which is the leading professional association for educating and certifying ophthalmic allied health personnel. Three core levels of certification are required before attempting any of the three specialty certifications listed below. While any core-certified individual may become certified in the subspecialty certifications, a certified ophthalmic assistant (COA) is required at minimum. An ophthalmic assistant needs a good general working knowledge of various tasks performed daily in ophthalmology offices.
Download the Core Criteria Handbook 2018 pdf from the IJCAHPO website for a full listing (www.jcahpo.org/certification-recertification/).
The currently available IJCAHPO certifications are:
- COA — Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (Basic)
- COT — Certified Ophthalmic Technician (Intermediate)
- COMT — Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist (Advanced)
- CCOA — Corporate Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (Industry)
- OSC — Ophthalmic Scribe Certified (Basic)
- OSA — Ophthalmic Surgical Assistant (Surgical Specialty)
- ROUB — Registered Ophthalmic Ultrasound Biometrist (Biometry Specialty)
- CDOS — Certified Diagnostic Ophthalmic Sonographer (Ophthalmic Ultrasonography Specialty)
Orthoptists in the ophthalmic field are trained to perform the evaluation, plan, and provide the treatment of patients who have disorders of the visual system with an emphasis on binocular vision and eye movements. Orthoptists are uniquely skilled in diagnostic techniques. To become an orthoptist, national regulations require completion of a baccalaureate degree prior to sitting for the national certifying exams.
For more information, visit the American Association of Certified Orthoptists (AACO) website: www.orthoptics.org/become-an-orthoptist .
The currently available AACO certification is Certified Orthoptist (CO).
An ophthalmic office manager or administrator can acquire certification through the American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (ASOA). The Certified Ophthalmic Executive (COE) designation is the national standard for ophthalmic practice management. An ophthalmic administrator needs a good working knowledge of general ophthalmology, financial management, operations, information technology management, human resources, risk management, and regulatory compliance.
For more information, visit www.asoa.org/coe .
The eyecare profession has a need for specialized personnel who provide expertise in coding the examinations performed so that appropriate billing can occur. These individuals need an in-depth knowledge of ICD coding and diagnosis to help the eyecare practitioner.
7 reasons to get certified
- It may make you a more attractive candidate to a hiring practice
- It may help you qualify for positions with employers that set high standards
- It travels with you, which may make relocation easier
- It can help you expand your knowledge
- It may increase your chances of earning a higher income
- It helps build your reputation in your professional field
- It may help you to confidently provide the best eye care to all of your patients
According to the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), medical coding standards have become increasingly complex. Regulations and requirements with the current healthcare delivery system are best met when medical coders, certified in specialty practice, provide medical coding.
Medical coders achieve AAPC certification, Certified Ophthalmology Coder (COPC), through specialized education, experience in an area of specialty, and qualifying exam(s). Certification is a professional’s official recognition of achievement, expertise, and judgment. It is a mark of excellence requiring continued learning and skill development to maintain. These are just a few reasons why employers seek AAPC certified professionals.
For more information, visit www.aapc.com/certification/specialty/copc .
Optometrists utilize optometric assistants and technicians, who provide similar tasks as ophthalmic assistants. The American Optometric Association (AOA) offers four levels of certification for optometric staff. Each program requires successful completion of an examination prepared and administered by the Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC) with the assistance of Professional Testing Corporation. For more information, visit the www.aoa.org/paraoptometrics/certification .
AOA certifications currently available are:
- CPO — Certified Paraoptometric (Entry)
- CPOA — Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (Intermediate)
- CPOT — Certified Paraoptometric Technician (Advanced)
- CPOC — Certified Paraoptometric Coder (Specialty)
Many eyecare practices provide some kind of imaging for documentation and diagnostic purposes. Office assistants are tasked with running these imaging systems and providing useful information. A good working knowledge of photography is needed to acquire certification in this field.
Ophthalmic Photographer Society (OPS) and its Board of Certification (BOC) are responsible for the certification of retinal angiographers, ophthalmic photographers, and ophthalmic tomographers. For more information, visit www.opsweb.org/page/Certification .
OPS certifications currently available are:
- CRA — Certified Retinal Angiographer
- OCT-C — Optical Coherence Tomographer-Certified
Opticianry and contact lenses fitter
Opticians are tasked with producing high-quality frames and lenses that come for prescriptions written by ophthalmologists and optometrists. A good working knowledge of lenses and optics is therefore required.
Opticians and contact lens technician certifications can be obtained through the American Board of Opticianry (ABO) for the National Opticianry Competency Examination and the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) for the Contact Lens Registry Exam. The website listed has all the content areas listed for those seeking these certifications.
For more information visit www.abo-ncle.org .
Front office, business and administration
The Certified Patient Services Specialist (CPSS) certification is offered through BSM Consulting and is geared toward the check-in receptionist, front desk assistant, scheduling coordinator, administrative assistant, billing personnel, check-out personnel, community outreach coordinator, managers, and marketing personnel.
According to BSM, “nonclinical employees are often the unsung heroes in the practice. From the first interaction with a patient to check-out, they leave a lasting impact on the overall practice image.” CPSS is a professional development pathway for new and experienced employees and indicates a “high level of competency and commitment to patients.”
For more information, visit www.bsmconsulting.com .
Certified Medical Scribe Specialist (CMSS) is offered through the American College of Medical Scribe Specialists (ACMSS), an organization devoted to advancing the education, proficiency and professional standing of medical scribes. As many of our practices use EMR, scribes have become an integral part of the team. Certification as a scribe by IJCAHPO (OSC) or the ACMSS increases your value to the practice.
Only you can guide your career. I believe certification is an invaluable credential you really can’t do without as an ophthalmic professional. You can take it with you, it will always be yours, and it will help you advance. OP