Paraoptometrics provide special service

Paraoptometrics provide special service

Excerpted from page 18 of the September 2015 edition of AOA Focus.

Paraoptometrics are key members of the eye care delivery team in optometric offices all across the country, and doctors can use Paraoptometric Recognition Week, September 13-19, to honor staff for the service they provide.

Marilyn Beeson, CPOA, AOA's 2015 Paraoptometric of the Year, is a shining example of that service. She began her career in eye care as a receptionist in an ophthalmology practice. But within one week, she was recruited to work away from the front desk with the retina specialist in the exam rooms. For the past 12 years, she has been a paraoptometric for Kirk Smithhart, O.D., in Jackson, Mississippi.

With a bachelor's degree in gerontology and sociology, Beeson specializes in helping patients from rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. Some are elderly, some are veterans. They may have spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries or diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Beeson also has been a technician, optician, special testing technician and insurance clerk.

In an excerpt from an interview with AOA Focus, she explains why she takes care of patients with special needs—and why the AOA and paraoptometrics need each other.

How did you get started working with patients with special needs?
My degree is actually in gerontology and sociology. I worked as an activity director for three of the veterans homes in the state of Mississippi ... and I had a lot of connections with social workers in the state, so I let them know I was in an optometry office that was wheelchair accessible, and we could do those senior citizens' and nursing home patients' eye exams.

How is caring for these patients different?
A lot of the rehab patients are nonverbal. They have physical needs: They can't sit up straight. They have to be leaning to a certain extent. They all have their own idiosyncrasies on the way they have to be seen and the way they have to be taken care of. I have a background with a limited education in sign language, so if they're nonverbal I can sign to them. Some of them I write notes to.

What do you enjoy about working with patients with special needs?
They need somebody in their corner to help out, and that's where I fall in. Some rehab and nursing home patients are put in there and just left. They may never see family again until [family members are] called for a funeral or a doctor's appointment. And a lot of times the facility brings them to us and we never see family. If not for the social worker or CNA (certified nursing assistant) that comes with them, they're by themselves.

How can the AOA benefit from paraoptometric involvement?
The paraoptometric can bring to the AOA their experience in the office. And we need the doctors to be able to come to us with [their input]. We need to be able to go to them. It's a bridge way between the two occupations so we can have that open dialogue.

Photograph by Tom Roster

September 10, 2015

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