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Everything you need to know about being an Orthoptist

3rd July 2019
Carly Hegarty s

Top reasons to be an Orthoptist

  • 90 to 100% of Orthoptic graduates find employment within 6 months of graduation with most orthoptists being employed in the NHS, where there is an established career structure.
  • The qualification is recognised worldwide.
  • Clinical staff usually work a 37.5-hour week, you may be required to work a set shift pattern, including weekends and evenings.
  • Part-time work, job shares, flexible working, secondments and career breaks are possible.
  • NHS employees are entitled to statutory paid annual leave.
  • New graduates are usually employed into a band 5/preceptorship post for at least 12 -18 months.  There is no pre-registration year for orthoptics.
  • Salaries for new graduates range from £24,214 to £30,112 (band 5)
  • You will learn how to diagnose and manage conditions which may present in a range of patients from new-borns to the elderly, e.g. strabismus (eye misalignments), amblyopia (sometimes called lazy eye), traumatic injuries, tumours, head injuries, diabetes and strokes.

What is an Orthoptist

An orthoptist specialises in diagnosing and managing a range of eye conditions that largely affect eye movement and visual development.  Understanding the eye and the role of the brain in visual experience is key to the work of an Orthoptist. Orthoptics is suited to individuals interested in science and health care who enjoy working with people of all ages but particularly children and the elderly. Some cases may include diagnosis of adults who have experienced a neurological episode that causes an eye muscle/nerve weakness resulting in double vision.  This may include cases of:

  • Acquired brain injury
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinsons disease
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Idiopathic Intracranial hypertension (IIH)

As an orthoptist, you’ll be responsible for:

  • assess, interpret and diagnose eye position and eye movement disorders
  • asses and interpret a patient’s visual development
  • investigate causes of vision and visual field loss
  • formulate a treatment plan, which might include prescribing an eye patch, eye exercises or the use of prisms
  • manage medicines
  • refer patients for further tests or investigations
  • work as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • monitor patients’ treatment and condition
  • undertake general administrative duties relating to patient care
  • contribute to service improvement and audit
  • be aware of public health initiatives

The skills you will develop as an Orthoptist student includes:

  • problem solving skills
  • communication and interpersonal skills (written and oral)
  • the ability to form a good rapport with colleagues at all levels
  • the ability to empathise and communicate tactfully with patients
  • teamworking skills and a collaborative approach to work
  • the ability to work independently, organising your own workload and appointments
  • the ability to work under pressure in a busy environment
  • patience
  • good time management awareness
  • self-motivation
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • good observational skills and attention to detail
  • general IT skills
  • a good attitude to self-directed learning
  • reflective practice skills
  • good manual dexterity
  • excellent hand-eye coordination.

The qualifications…

You will need to complete a degree in orthoptics at one of the following Higher Education institutions:

Typical offer: A-level: BBB in at least one science subject. The courses consist of theory and clinical practice and last three years full time (four years in Scotland).

Work experience….

It is advisable to undertake work experience as university places for Orthoptics can be competitive. At your interview you should have a good understanding of what orthoptics is and are advised to observe an orthoptist in practice before applying for a place. This will show your interest in, and commitment to, the profession.

Visit orthoptics.org.uk for details on how to arrange a work shadow opportunity or contact your local orthoptic department for advice.  Remember to include details of relevant work experience in your university application.

Experience of working in a caring or healthcare environment, either in a paid or voluntary capacity, is also useful. Work with children, people with special needs and the elderly is particularly relevant.

Potential employers

Most orthoptists work for the NHS either in a hospital or in community health centres. You may also visit primary schools and schools for children with special needs.

There are also opportunities to work in private practice.

Look for job vacancies at:

Hospital orthoptic departments may notify the academic departments at Glasgow Caledonian, Sheffield and Liverpool universities directly of any vacancies.

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