Ophthalmologists are medically trained doctors with specialist skills in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases of the eye and visual system. They treat patients of all ages, from babies to the elderly.
Common conditions dealt with include cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes and degenerative conditions resulting from ageing. They work in outpatient clinics, the operating theatre, laser eye surgery clinics and community clinics. There is also a limited amount of work based on wards.
There are a small number of medical ophthalmologists who are trained in general medicine, as well as ophthalmology. They are concerned with managing eye disorders that are specifically related to whole-body disease, such as diabetes, meaning they need to treat the patient and not just their eye condition.
- assessing and examining patients in order to make a diagnosis;
- management of ophthalmic conditions, taking into account both medical and psychological aspects of patient care;
- managing busy general outpatient clinics, emergency eye clinics and specialist clinics;
- ward rounds, but this is limited as most ophthalmic patients have day surgery and do not stay in hospital overnight;
- working as part of a multi-disciplinary team that includes optometrists, orthoptists, nurses and with specialists such as neurologists, ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeons and paediatricians;
- operating equipment such as ophthalmoscopes, slit lamps and lenses;
- carrying out surgical procedures using an operating microscope, small incision (keyhole) surgery, laser surgery, etc.;
- communicating and empathizing with patients and family members;
- educating patients to understand their medical condition;
- handling legal documentation for the certification of patients as blind or partially sighted;
- supporting health promotion and disease prevention activities.
To become an ophthalmologist, you must complete:
- a degree in medicine
- a two-year foundation programme of general training;
- specialist training in ophthalmology.
- good stereoscopic vision and professional health requirements in line with the GMC;
- practical hand skills and good hand-eye coordination;
- communication skills, including empathy and sensitivity;
- problem-solving skills and high-level decision making;
- the ability to work as part of a multidisciplinary team;
- leadership skills (for consultants);
- the ability to work under pressure;
- good organizational and planning skills.