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    Tips to become a better contact lens technician

    Contact lens technicians wear many hats—including medical assistant, educator, interviewer, salesperson, arbitrator, and right-hand to the doctor. As technicians learn, grow, and interact with patients, they are building practices.

    As a technician with 42 years in the eyecare profession, I would like to share tips and skills that will enhance a technincian’s value to the practice. These tips have helped doctors reduce chair time, see more patients, and develop their reputations as state-of-the-art contact lens practices.

    Contact lens work-up

    A good contact lens history is a critical skill. Every patient has a story, and technicians must convey these stories in the patient’s own language. If technicians interpret patients’ words and enter their histories on the chart in technical terms, something important may be lost in the translation.

    A thorough contact lens history not only helps doctors select the right contact lens candidates, it helps them select the best lens modalities, materials, and care systems for each patient.

    Related: 10 tips to become a super tech

    These questions will guide the doctor in the decision-making process:

    • Many patients look younger than they appear. Technicians need to know the age of patients to find out if they are presbyopic. However, asking for a patient’s age may be uncomfortable. It is best to ask, “What is your date of birth?”

    • Is the patient under treatment for any medical problems? Allergies, arthritis and other collagen diseases, diabetes, and thyroid problems are associated with dry eye disease. Antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, Accutane, oral contraceptives, and MAO inhibitors also contribute to ocular dryness. Patients on immunosuppressing drugs may be more susceptible to infection.

    • Has the patient ever had a corneal abrasion or other injuries to either eye? Which eye, and how did it occur?

    • Has the patient ever had a serious eye infection or corneal ulcer?

    • Has the patient had eye surgery?

    • Does the patient have any other eye disease (e.g., keratoconus, corneal dystrophies, macular degeneration, cataracts, or glaucoma)?

    • How does the patient use his eyes at work and for leisure activities?

    • Is the patient involved in contact sports (soccer, football, basketball)?

    • What motivated the patient to want contact lenses? The motivating factor is the desire to see and be seen without glasses. Patients with frivolous reasons, such as, “My glasses tend to slip down my nose,” or “I’m always forgetting where I left my glasses,” are not motivated enough to assume the responsibilities of contact lens wear and care.

    Related: How techs should handle ocular emergencies

    • Is the patient currently wearing contact lenses, or has she tried them in the past?

    • If contact lenses are currently being worn, are there problems with vision, comfort, dryness, deposit buildup, or lens slippage?

    • Is the patient currently wearing contact lenses lens part time or full time? How many hours on a typical day?

    • If contact lenses were tried and discontinued, “Why did you stop wearing your contacts?”

    • What is on the patient’s contact lens “wish list” (e.g., daily disposables, lenses for astigmatism, multifocals, lenses that are better for dry eyes)?

    Phyllis L. Rakow, COMT, NCLM, FCLSA(H)
    Phyllis Rakow, COMT, NCLM, FCLSA(H) is a JCAHPO-certified ophthalmic medical technologist, at a large three-location group practice in ...

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