March 1, 2023

The Role of Government in Optometry Regulation

Optometry regulators are tasked with the important role of protecting the public through the enforcement of the practice act. But an often overlooked question is why government decides to regulate the professions. Government is the only entity that can require action (or inaction) as a means of meeting its goal of a civilized and protected society. Government regulation of the optometry profession provides protection to all persons involved and the public as a whole. Applicants, licensees, and consumers of optometry services are afforded rights that ensure a fair process of granting a license and a mechanism of enforcement for the benefit of all. The regulation of the professions is state and provincial-based, meaning each jurisdiction has the right to determine how to regulate in the interest of the persons residing in and seeking the services of a professional. That is why there may be slight differences in the requirements for licensure eligibility and renewal. The Association of Regulatory Boards of Optometry assists its Member Boards by providing programs and services intended to promote uniformity and increase the efficiencies and effectiveness of the optometry regulatory community.

Optometry boards follow the statutes in determining how to license and renew the credential granted to applicants seeking to engage in the practice. The statutes establish the scope of practice which determines what activities can (and cannot) be undertaken and when licensure is required. The intent of these requirements of licensure is to ensure that only qualified persons be granted the authority to practice optometry. Optometry boards gather information about applicants to determine if they qualify for licensure. The gathered information includes education, examination(s), experience, and criminal background checks. If qualified, the board issues a license authorizing that individual to practice optometry. Optometrists periodically renew their licenses after establishing the completion of qualifying continuing education. Boards are authorized to sanction persons that failed to adhere to the legal requirements.

Imagine where we would be without the government licensure of optometrists?