Frequently Asked Questions
Introduction to Practice Questions
These frequently asked practice questions are intended to provide general guidance and are not a substitute for consulting the appropriate laws, rules or regulations or a qualified attorney. The laws, rules and regulations are available at the link on the left.
- The scope of practice for ophthalmic dispensing is defined
in the law. Does that mean that I can do everything that falls
within the legal scope of my practice?
Part 29 of the Rules of the Board of Regents requires that licensees practice within their personal scope of competence. If you are not competent to provide a service that you are legally allowed to provide, then you may not provide that service. As a licensed professional, it is your responsibility to practice within the scope of your abilities and expertise. If you practice outside your personal scope of competence, you can be charged with professional misconduct.
- If I am licensed as an ophthalmic dispenser, can I also dispense contact
Section 7121 of New York Education Law states that licensed ophthalmic dispensers may dispense eyeglasses; additional certification is required in order to dispense contact lenses. Additionally, contact lenses can only be fitted under the supervision of an optometrist or physician. For information on how a licensed ophthalmic dispenser can be certified to dispense and fit contact lenses, please contact the State Board Office.
- Can an ophthalmic dispenser dispense replacement contact lenses or eyeglasses
without a prescription?
While Education Law, Article 144, section 7121, provides for the replacement or duplicates of eyeglasses and contact lenses without a prescription, recently enacted federal law, the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (15 U.S.C. 7603) and its implementing regulations (16 CFR 315.5), requires that a seller may sell contact lenses only in accordance with a contact lens prescription. The prescription must be:
- presented to the seller by the patient or prescriber directly or by facsimile; or
- verified by direct communication.
Therefore, it would be permissible to replace or duplicate eyeglasses, but not contact lenses without a prescription.
- For what period of time is a prescription valid?
The length of time that a prescription is valid is not addressed in Education Law. Typically we state that an outer limit for acceptably is two years. However, that limitation is based more on insurance company policies than provisions of law. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your judgement as a licensed practitioner.
The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act requires a prescription for contact lenses to be valid for at least one year unless, in the prescriber's medical judgment, the patient's eye health requires a shorter period of time.
- If a patient wants to fill her prescription on-line or at another optical
shop, am I required to provide a copy of her prescription?
Yes, according to Education Law and Regulations you must provide a copy of the prescription. Section 29.1(b)(7) of the Regents Rules state that it is unprofessional conduct for a licensee to fail to make available to a patient or client, upon request, copies of documents in the possession or under the control of the licensee which have been prepared and paid for by the patient or client.
- Is a patient's pupillary distance measurement a part of the patient's prescription?
Generally speaking, the pupillary distance measurement is not included in the prescription provided by an optometrist or physician. However, should the prescriber include the pupillary distance on the prescription, it would be part of the prescription.
- Must an ophthalmic dispenser make a patient's pupillary distance measurement available to the patient?
Once an ophthalmic dispenser measures and records the patient's pupillary distance, it becomes part of the patient's records. As such, it would be available to the patient in accordance with the provisions of sections 29.1(b)(7) and 29.2(b) of the Rules of the Board of Regents and section 18 of the Public Health Law.
- After taking a patient's pupillary distance measurement, must an ophthalmic dispenser record that measurement in the patient's records?
Failure to record a measurement that the ophthalmic dispenser has taken may be grounds for a charge of unprofessional conduct under section 29.2(a)(3) of the Rules of the Board of Regents, which requires all health professionals "to maintain a record for each patient which accurately reflects the evaluation and treatment of the patient…."
- In the absence of providing any other services, may an ophthalmic dispenser charge a patient for measuring his or her pupillary distance?
As with any other service he or she provides, an ophthalmic dispenser may charge a patient for measuring the patient’s pupillary distance.
- How long must I maintain patient records?
All patient records must be kept for six years. Records for children must be kept until the child is 22 years old, even if that means keeping the records for more than six years. Standards of practice dictate that records include at least the following information: prescription, interpupillary measurements, base curve, segment style, material tint, vertex distance, and any other special lens treatments which fulfill the patient's requirements.
- Can I dispense cosmetic contact lenses that are non-prescription?
Section 7106(2) of the Education Law requires that non-corrective or cosmetic contact lenses may only be dispensed if a prescription from a licensed physician or licensed optometrist is presented. Federal law also makes this requirement.
- Who can legally sell or dispense prescription diving masks, swim goggles,
or other sports eyewear?
The State Education Department determined in 1983 that the sale of sports eyewear which includes corrective lenses such as diving masks or swim goggles, constitutes the practice of ophthalmic dispensing within the definition of section 7121 of Education Law. Section 7126(1) of Education Law allows a corporation which is not licensed to practice ophthalmic dispensing to engage in the business of selling eyeglasses or lenses for the correction of vision only if a licensed physician, optometrist or ophthalmic dispenser is in charge of and in personal attendance at the point of sale.
- May I use an "aide" or "assistant" to provide ophthalmic
In the practice of eye care, an unlicensed person can perform tasks that are not limited to any licensed profession or are exempt under section 7125 of Education Law which exempts mechanical work on inert matter. This would include tasks such as: color vision testing, measurement of vital signs, preparing patients as well as examining rooms and equipment, setting up and operating a generator, polisher, edger and hardener to fabricate lenses, and lensometry to the extent that these tasks do not require the exercise of professional judgment or skill. Activities that fall within the scope of ophthalmic dispensing, optometry, medicine, or another licensed profession may not be delegated to an unlicensed person. The performance of restricted tasks by an unlicensed person could subject the licensee to charges of professional misconduct and the unlicensed person to prosecution for illegal practice of a profession.
- If I am working under the supervision of an optometrist or ophthalmologist,
can I dispense medications or perform an eye examination if I have completed
a refraction course?
Education Law and the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education state it is unprofessional conduct for a licensee to delegate professional responsibilities to another person when the licensee knows that the person is not qualified to perform the activity. The completion of a course or educational experience does not allow an individual to engage in activities that are defined as another profession. Thus, even if a licensed physician is present and supervising an individual-licensed or unlicensed-the physician could be charged with professional misconduct.
- Am I required to engage in continuing education in order to register
An ophthalmic dispenser must complete 0.5 hours of continuing education for each month of the preceding registration period in which the ophthalmic dispenser was registered (18 hours for a three-year registration period). An ophthalmic dispenser certified to dispense contact lenses must complete 0.56 hours for each month (20 hours during the three-year period), with 10 of those hours related to contact lenses. The providers of continuing education must be approved by the New York State Board for Ophthalmic Dispensing. Applicants for re-registration who are unable to meet the continuing education requirement may apply to the Board for a one-year conditional registration and pay the appropriate fees. During this conditional period, the licensee must complete the continuing education requirements from the previous registration period as well as the hours required during the additional one-year period. (For more information on continuing education, see "Continuing Education Questions and Answers for Ophthalmic Dispensing and Fitters of Contact Lenses.")
- Am I required to wear an identification badge when I am providing services
in a health care setting?
You must wear a name tag indicating your name and your professional title if you are practicing as an employee or operator of a hospital, clinic, group practice, or multi-professional facility, or at a commercial establishment offering health services to the public.
- What are the major requirements of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers
The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act and the Contact Lens Rule which implements the Act require:
- Prescribers to give patients a copy of their contact lens prescriptions at the end of a contact lens fitting, even if the patient doesn't ask for it.
- Prescribers to provide or verify the contact lens prescription to anyone who is designated to act on behalf of the patient, including contact lens sellers.
- Prescribers to set the prescription expiration date on year or more from the date the prescription is issued to a patient unless in the prescriber's judgement the patient's eye health requires a shorter period of time.
- Sellers to provide contact lenses only in accordance with a valid prescription that is directly presented to the seller or verified with the prescriber.
*Please see the FTC site for more information .
- When can a one-year renewal of the training permit be granted?
If a candidate on a training permit shows progress toward completion of the Career Progression Program (CPP), by completing two of the three volumes of the CPP, which is validated by passing the examinations at the end of each volume, and has achieved a passing score on the ABO written examination, a one-year renewal of the training permit will be granted.
If a candidate has completed two years of training, completed the Career Progress Program (CPP), achieved a passing score on the ABO written examination and the supervisor attests to the fact that the candidate has completed the two years of training, a candidate is not eligible for a renewal. The training permit is intended to allow candidates to complete the education requirement of licensure.
Candidates who have completed the education requirement of licensure may apply for a limited permit.
- If a candidate has met the education requirement and failed the practical
exam, may the candidate be issued a limited permit?
No. Section 7125(c)(2) states that a "limited permit shall expire after two years, or upon notice to the applicant that the application for licensure has been denied, or ten days after notification to the applicant of failure on the professional licensing examination, whichever shall first occur." Even if the candidate does not currently have a limited permit, failure on the practical examination prevents the department from issuing a limited permit.
- If I am unsure about whether something falls within my legal scope of
practice, how can I find out?
Please contact the Office of the Professions State Board for Ophthalmic Dispensing at 89 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12234-1000; call 518-474-3817 ext. 180; fax 518-402-5944; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.