What is it?
COAs work under the supervision and direction of an ophthalmologist to perform ophthalmic clinical duties.
The Certified Ophthalmic Assistant® (COA®) certification level is JCAHPO’s initial core level of certification. In other words, this is the entry-level pathway for a career as a certified allied health professional in ophthalmology.
What does it mean for me?
COA certification from JCAHPO means several things. For one, JCAHPO certification, at any level, is recognized and respected internationally by physicians, employers, administrators, and other ophthalmic and medical personnel.
COA certificants have completed an independent study course or accredited training program and passed the COA level examination. COAs are trained to perform many skilled tasks, and have the knowledge and confidence to provide better patient care. They have demonstrated an eagerness, and commitment to their professional career. COA certification ultimately gives individuals the potential for career advancement.
Examples of tasks that the certificant would handle
COAs work under the supervision and direction of an ophthalmologist to perform ophthalmic clinical duties. They are trained to measure visual acuity, instill ocular medications, obtain ocular, medical, and family history, perform manifest refractometry, instruct patient regarding medications, tests, and procedures, coordinate patient flow, measure intraocular pressure by applanation tonometry, participate in telephone triage, measure pinhole acuity, and measure, compare, and test pupils.
What makes it different than the COT/COMT?
The main differences are education and experience. Training is generally six months to one year for ophthalmic assistants, one to two years in length for ophthalmic technicians, and two years or more for medical technologists.
COTs will generally have more responsibilities and technical skills and experience than COAs. COMTs are trained for additional duties, such as taking ophthalmic photographs, using ultrasound, as well as providing instruction and supervision to other ophthalmic personnel. Ophthalmic technologists are expected to perform at a higher level of expertise than ophthalmic technicians and to exercise considerable clinical and technical judgment.
How do I become a COA?
There are several pathways that candidates use to become eligible to be certified ophthalmic assistants or technicians.
The majority of JCAHPO certified personnel enter the field through independent study courses. JCAHPO offers an exclusive JCAHPO Career Advancement Tool (JCAT), a packaged learning resource that helps entry-level personnel become eligible to take the Certified Ophthalmic Assistant (COA®) level examination. This newest educational tool provides beginners with comprehensive learning materials to transition into the eye care profession.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) also offers an independent study course, in a revised version. This revision includes two new chapters, Refractive Surgery Concepts & Procedures; and Understanding Practice Management. Revised chapters and a glossary incorporating new evidence-based information and ground-breaking technologies are also included.
The Canadian Opthalmological Society (COS) supports two Canadian Home Study Courses, offered through Centennial College and the Southern
Alberta Institute of Technology. Allowing participants to work full-time while working toward certification, these online courses require
participants to currently be employed by an ophthalmologist.
Another way is through an accredited formal training program. JCAHPO is a sponsoring organization of the training program accreditor, CoA-OMP. Several academic institutions are CoA-OMP- accredited and students can enroll in these programs to earn credit and cultivate important career fundamentals as an ophthalmic assistant, technician, or medical technologist. Visit www.jcahpo.org/CoA-OMP/list/ for a list of programs by state or country. For Canadian candidates, a list of available programs can be found at http://www.jcahpo.org/CoA-OMP/list/#Canada.
If continuing education credits are necessary for your eligibility pathway, online courses are also available at www.actioned.org. Individuals can select from a variety courses, track progress, and earn credits toward certification examination eligibility.