From optometrist to nurse: a guide to eye health roles

Sightsavers’ work relies on thousands of skilled eye health staff worldwide. Here you can learn what each job involves, and how their knowledge and skill helps us to change lives.

Vision technician Ruth Zeo points to an eye chart during an eye screening

What does each role involve?

Gladys, an ophthalmologist, is in surgery operating on a cataract patient.

The ophthalmologist

These medical doctors specialise in eye and vision care. Ophthalmologists are trained to perform eye surgery and can diagnose and treat eye diseases. They also prescribe medication, spectacles and contact lenses.

A school student has her eyes tested while wearing optical glasses: an eye health worker's hand is changing the lenses in the glasses.

The optometrist

An optometrist’s main role is to perform eye tests to detect vision problems, or health issues such as high blood pressure. They offer advice, prescribe spectacles and refer patients for treatment.

An ophthalmic nurse checks a woman's eyes on World Sight Day in Zambia.

The ophthalmic nurse

Ophthalmic nurses are nursing professionals who assess patients with eye issues, then provide initial care and first-aid treatment. If patients need further treatment, they are referred to an ophthalmologist.

Samson shines a torch into a woman's eye during an eye exam while checking for trachoma.

The ophthalmic clinical officer

Ophthalmic clinical officers provide basic medical care when doctors are not available. They treat simple conditions and carry out eye exams, working alongside ophthalmologists to help them see more patients.

Meet the people behind the roles

How we’re helping to improve eye health care

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The right people

Many poorer countries have a major shortage of eye health staff.

Since 1950, we’ve trained more than 3,800 ophthalmic nurses and 1,000 cataract surgeons to treat people.

A circular icon showing a white 'location marker' on a purple background.

The right place

Most eye care staff are based in cities, leaving rural areas under-resourced.

To ensure remote communities are covered, we train local health workers so they can treat people in rural areas.

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The right time

Populations continue to grow, yet it takes time to train eye health staff.

We help to develop the skills of mid-level eye health staff so work can be distributed between more people.

Learn about our work across Africa and Asia

Sightsavers and eye health