Orthoptists are experts in assessing visual function, particularly in children and those with communication difficulties. They specialise in how the eyes work together, called binocular vision and in understanding why and how neurological impairments affect the way we see. Orthoptists assess, diagnose ,monitor and treat a wide variety of disorders from strabismus and amblyopia to cranial nerve paralysis. These can be caused by issues with the muscles surrounding the eye or defects in the nerves enabling the brain to communicate with the eyes.
The age range of patients we see will be from the very young to the elderly. Excellent communication skills are required as you will be dealing with members of the public on a daily basis, as well as liaising with the consultant body and ophthalmology team. It is a very rewarding job with lots of different career options.
In the morning you might be working in eye casualty diagnosing and treating a variety of binocular vision anomalies. These may be patients who experience sudden onset double vision, which causes the patient to be very disorientated and unable to make sense of what they see as their eyes can no longer work together. It is my job to make assessments about how the eye muscles are working and to try and alleviate their symptoms.
After lunch you may find yourself working alongside the paediatric ophthalmology consultants seeing, diagnosing and treating a wide variety of conditions from strabismus (squint), amblyopia (poor vision in one or either eye) our doing pre and post-operative measurements for patients undergoing or just out of surgery.
As an orthoptist, there is a wide range of career paths to choose from including research, teaching, becoming a clinical tutor, specialist orthoptist roles (i.e.neuro orthoptics or children with special needs) as well as working within the community.
Why I chose to be an orthoptist:
I had set my goal on becoming a physiotherapist, but due to a clerical error I missed the cut off date for that intake and I could not enrol for another year. My mother worked as a receptionist for the orthoptists and I met them by accident. I had never heard of the word orthoptics, let alone knew what it meant (it comes from Greek word ‘ortho’ meaning straight and ‘optics’ relating to the eyes). I went and observed what they did and knew I would love the job. I managed to train at Moorfields Eye Hospital, qualified and I am now head of the orthoptic department. I have never regretted my decision and have enjoyed every day of my working life. It is a very rewarding career with lots of flexibility.