Optometrist examining a patient's eyes with a slit lamp for glaucoma treatment

New Jersey Trusted Eye Care

For more than a century - Optometrists, also recognized as Doctors of Optometry - in New Jersey, have been the first source for managing a patient’s eye care and health.

Now, optometrists are seeking to modernize New Jersey’s outdated optometric scope of practice through legislation (A-920 / S-354), which will allow optometrists to help improve access to care and health equity in our state. See below for more information about the legislation, why it’s needed and what it will specifically allow.

Legislation Overview

Legislation That's Vital To Critical Patient Eye Care

A-920/S-354 was introduced to allow optometrists to provide certain in-office, non-invasive, minor procedures to treat glaucoma and after-cataract surgery care and minor procedures to remove styes and skin tags. The legislation also seeks to expand vaccination and prescriptive authority to further increase access to needed care.

It’s about increasing equity and access, while reducing costs…

father-and-sonNow more than ever this legislation, which allows optometrists to provide critical eye care when and where it’s needed most, is needed to ensure all New Jersey residents have timely access to vision and medical eye care. It will lower costs by eliminating duplication of services and extra co-pays for redundant office visits. It also will reduce patient travel time and missed hours at work.

There will be 3 million New Jerseyans over age 60 by 2030, an increase of nearly 1 million, which will dramatically increase the need for eye care.

Today, optometrists outnumber ophthalmologists nearly 2:1 in New Jersey. Our health care system and workforce are strained, and optometrists can be part of the solution. Allowing optometrists to perform these procedures allows our state to utilize all available resources for providing care.

Slightly expanding optometrists' scope of practice aligns with current optometric education, training, and certification and helps retain and attract highly skilled, qualified optometrists to our state.

These procedures are approved to be performed by optometrists/doctors of optometry in other states and within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 100,000 of these procedures have been performed by these professionals across the United States. It's time for New Jersey to catch up. Optometrists are the solution.

In-office eye laser procedure certification requires:

  • 4 years of doctor of optometry school
  • Evaluation and management of thousands of patients
  • Years of training in ocular disease and treatment
  • Three national board examinations
  • Performance proficiency examination
Video: Laser Demonstration

Curious about how the laser procedures mentioned in this legislation are performed? Watch the video below. Optometrist Kelley Sedlock, OD, FAAO, (featured in the video) successfully conducted hundreds of these procedures in Kentucky before she moved to New Jersey. Today, she's unable to perform these procedures on her patients because of New Jersey's optometric scope of practice restrictions. In this video, Dr. Sedlock demonstrates a laser procedure.

NJO Bill Sponsors UPDATED 21624

Why it Matters

Optometrists have been treating glaucoma for 30 years and managing after-cataract conditions for almost 40 years.

By expanding the eye laser procedures in New Jersey within an optometrist's scope of education, training, and certification, New Jerseyans will have better access to the care they need.

When optometrists can perform these procedures, they can provide care when and where it's needed. It also lowers costs by eliminating duplication of services and additional co-pays, health care costs, caretaker arrangements, travel time, and time spent with blurry vision.

Regulated Profession

Why do states regulate practice standards for optometrists?

Every state governs the privileges of its health care providers through licensing programs. Although every optometry school trains its students to provide in-office eye laser procedures and in-office surgical care, every state decides the rights of its doctors of optometry to perform these procedures. Typically, MDs try to limit the rights of optometrists, dentists, nurses, chiropractors and other health care professions.

New Jersey State Capitol building, representing the focus on local legislation

Changing Scope to Meet Patient Needs

New Jersey optometrists have expanded their scope of practice over the past 40 years to keep their patient care up to the standards of their education, training, and certification. 

Imagine your optometrist not being permitted to dilate pupils or treat pink eye? Forty years ago, MDs tried to prevent optometrists from providing this care.

Optometrist talking with a patient about glaucoma while pointing to an eye chart

Optometrists Performing In‑Office Eye Laser FACTS

  • These procedures are approved to be performed by optometrists/doctors of optometry in other states and within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More than 100,000 of these procedures have been performed by these professionals across the United States.
  • All U.S. optometry schools train students to perform the procedures included in this legislation.
  • Currently licensed optometrists would not be grandfathered to perform these minor procedures. They would be required to complete additional training including performing procedures under direct supervision to demonstrate competence to satisfy State Board requirements.
Optometrist using a laser to perform a non-invasive procedure on a patient's eye

Optometry and ophthalmology play a vital, coordinated role in modern eye care

Optometrists respect and work closely alongside ophthalmologists to provide their patients the best possible eye care in New Jersey.

Ophthalmologists provide a critical surgical role in incisional glaucoma surgery, retinal surgery, eye muscle surgery, corneal transplants, and much more. Patients are much better served when each discipline is able to practice to the fullest extent of their education, training, and certification.

Optometry Education
To Match

New Jersey optometrists have one of the most rigorous continuing education requirements for re-licensure, requiring 50 hours of approved continuing education every two years.

The numbers are clear. Optometrists have the education and training to perform these procedures.

Click here to read more about the optometry school classroom.

4 Years

of undergraduate university.

4 Years

of doctor of optometry school. Like medical doctors, dentists and podiatrists, optometrists complete 4 years of professional school following college.

1000s

of patients with eye diseases receiving care and individual treatment plans while the optometrist was in school.

~10,000

of hours of optometry education and patient care before independently seeing patients.

50

hours of approved continuing education every two years

Certified

in laser treatment procedures, in‑office surgical care, and more.

Every Day

Optometrists use a microscope to diagnose over 270 systemic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune diseases, cancers and more.

These doctors are trusted and often more accessible than their eye surgeon colleagues (ophthalmologists) who don't practice in half of the counties in New Jersey.

Proven Success

Optometrists in other states already perform in-office eye laser procedures to treat glaucoma and after-cataract surgery care. While optometrists are the trusted professionals for the majority of eye care patients in the United States, you still need an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) to perform cataract surgery, retina surgery and more.

Every optometry school in the USA trains optometrists to perform in-office eye laser procedures and optometrists in other states have been performing in-office laser procedures since the 1990s. In other states, these glaucoma and after-cataract in-office eye laser procedures are provided by optometrists.

Ophthalmologists have commonly tried to reduce patients' access to care by saying that only they can perform in-office eye laser procedures − even though optometrists have been performing these procedures for decades.

Ophthalmologists often claim that their training is superior to optometrists and try to limit them doing even basic procedures such as:

  • Dilating pupils during an eye exam
  • Recommending artificial tear drops for dry eye
  • Prescribing eye drops for pink eye or glaucoma
  • Treating eye lid chalazia with steroid injections

Imagine your optometrist not being permitted to dilate pupils or treat pink eye? Forty years ago, MDs tried to prevent optometrists from providing this care.

In The News

Dr. Jesús Barrios, featured in the NJ News Spotlight.
New Jersey legislation featured in the Review of Optometry.
Dr. Jessica Garden, featured on NJ.com.
Optometrists Chris Quinn and Jessica Garden, featured in Review of Optometry.
Dr. Kelley Sedlock, featured in the Asbury Park Press.
Edward Timmons of West Virginia University, featured on NorthJersey.com.

Dr. Dawn Arnold, featured on NorthJersey.com.

New Jersey legislation featured in the Review of Optometry.

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