What is an Ophthalmologist?
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who has undertaken additional specialist training in the diagnosis and management of disorders of the eye and visual system.
Ophthalmology training equips eye specialists to provide the full spectrum of eye care, including the prescription of glasses and contact lenses, medical treatment and complex microsurgery.
In Australia and New Zealand, an ophthalmologist is required to have undertaken a minimum of 12 years of training, including:
• 5 years at a medical school, graduating with a degree in medicine,
• 2 years (minimum) as a newly qualified doctor undertaking basic medical training,
• 5 years of ophthalmic specialist training and successful completion of examinations set by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO).
Many ophthalmologists are also involved in scientific research into causes and cures for eye diseases and vision problems.
What is the difference between an ophthalmologist, optometrist and orthoptist?
All are eye care professionals, but only an ophthalmologist is a medically trained specialist.
Optometrists examine eyes, give advice on visual problems, and prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses. If eye disease is detected, an optometrist will refer patients to an ophthalmologist for further management. In certain circumstances, ophthalmologists and optometrists work collaboratively in the care of patients, especially those with chronic eye diseases.
The typical training for an optometrist in Australia and New Zealand includes:
• 5 years at university leading to a degree in optometry.
• 1 year of pre-registration experience.
Orthoptists are allied health professionals who are trained to diagnose and manage disorders of eye movements and associated vision problems. They are also trained to perform investigative testing of eye diseases. They work in a diverse range of settings, including hospitals, private practices, low vision and rehabilitation settings and research centres.
Orthoptic training is undertaken in a 4 year Bachelor of Health Sciences/ Master of Orthoptics university degree.
What is the purpose of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists?
RANZCO is the professional body for ophthalmologists and is responsible for developing and maintaining standards in ophthalmology training and practice.
The activities of the College include:
• Selection and training of ophthalmology trainees,
• Curriculum development and administration of examinations,
• Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program,
• Publication of the scientific journal "Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology",
• Organization of the annual RANZCO scientific congress,
• Development of clinical guidelines,
• Promotion of research in ophthalmology through its scientific arm, the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia (ORIA) www.oria.org.au
• Indigenous and international development,
• Public awareness and education relating to eye health,
• Fundraising for eye research and international development through the RANZCO Eye Foundation www.eyefoundation.org.au
RANZCO is not a regulatory body; it does not have a role in disciplinary actions and is unable to act on complaints about individual doctors. This is the responsibility of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Authority (AHPRA) in Australia and the Medical Council of New Zealand (MCNZ) in New Zealand. AHPRA and MCNZ hold the central registers of doctors' qualifications, including the specialist register in Australia and the vocational register in New Zealand. The specialist or vocational register lists doctors who have completed specialist training, including surgical training.
Information about eye problems can be found under the Patient Information sub-heading in the Publications section of this website. RANZCO accepts public enquiries but cannot offer any specific advice about individual treatment.
How can I find an ophthalmologist?
RANZCO does not maintain public lists of specialists and is unable to recommend individual ophthalmologists to patients. It is strongly advised that patients seek referral through a general practitioner or optometrist, who will be able to arrange either public or private eye care.