Pharmacist For The Eyes?


‘Pharmacist For The Eyes?’

Last week in The Optical Business News podcast (click here to listen!), Daniel and I were talking about…well, we talked about a lot of things lol. But one thing that struck me as something we all, as ‘dispensers’ have to deal with at some point. Heck, I have even made the reference myself. When asked what an optician is, sometimes the easiest answer is ‘I am a pharmacist for your eyeballs’. But is that REALLY an accurate representation of what we are?

Let’s see….

Pharmacists go through additional schooling to learn the ins and outs of medicines-pharmacology. They graduate with a doctorate in pharmacology and know what drugs interact with others, what most side effects are, etc. Basically, they are all about the drugs.

Opticians, on the other hand, may get formal schooling, maybe ‘apprenticed’, or may learn the trade all on their own. They may be licensed, or in some states, have no licensure at all.

Pharmacists, never, ever, make recommendations on what medicine you should buy (except if you ask them what cold remedy works best with a hypertension diagnosis, for instance). They simply fill prescriptions as written by health care providers. There IS no retail, there is no feeling of connection or that they are someone you’d take advice from, other than about your medications.  If you are lucky, you have some sort of rapport with them-especially if you receive your meds from an independent pharmacy.

Opticians, on the other hand….well, we also fill prescriptions, as written, from a healthcare professional. We have some part in the manufacturing of those eyeglasses (edging, adjusting, or even just the order placement with the correct measurements). In some states, we can even fit and dispense contact lenses on our own.

But that is pretty much where the similarities end. We also are designers, fashion advisors, bartender-type psychologists, detectives, liaisons between the customer and the health care provider who wrote that Rx that is 45 degrees off axis with no medically necessary reason to do so.

We listen, we investigate, we commiserate, we ask questions about lifestyle, about habits, about favorite colors and wardrobes and work vs recreation. In short, we are style consultants, who just happen to have this amazing wealth of technical knowledge to go with it. We can readily take all that information we have learned and extrapolate what frames and lenses will best fit this patient’s needs.  What colors will complement their skin and hair while also working with their taste-all the while determining what shape will both best work with the patient’s face shape, as well as prescription and multifocal needs.

So…while this isn’t a competition…nor do I in any way mean to disparage pharmacists, opticians are pretty damn amazing people with talents that other medically minded professionals could only dream about having.

So the next time someone asks what you do, and you say ‘optician’, and they look at you like they don’t know if you are gonna birth a baby for someone or align their braces, rather than use the old ‘I am a pharmacist for your eyeballs’, try something new.

I am a fashion technician for your face.

I take your prescription and make you look more fabulous.

I am a whole body, holistic purveyor of unique accessories to make over your outlook on life.

(I really like that last one!!)

P.S. One thing the pharmacists do have over us? You can walk in to pick up your prescription meds, and walk out spending $150 on junk you didn’t need. You know why? Because they put the pharmacy at the BACK of the store!

Think how you can incorporate that idea into your office. Just because we are different doesn’t mean we can’t learn from each other 🙂

Kala Mid Page