COBC or OAC: Who Does What? (Part 2)

Many registrants often confuse us, the College of Opticians of BC (COBC), with the Opticians Association of Canada (OAC). In order to help us understand where confusion might exist, we conducted a survey in September 2018, which consisted of two sections: We asked registrants to tell us which organization they believed provided certain services, and we also asked them who they would call in certain practice scenarios.

We had almost 240 respondents participate in the survey - most registrants appear to have a solid understanding about how the organizations differ, but the results did reveal some areas of confusion that we hope to address!

The results of the first section of the survey can be found here on our website. The results from the second section are presented below, along with the correct answers.


Participants were placed in different scenarios, and asked which organization they should call:

1.   A patient came into my practice to purchase eyeglasses. They handed me their prescription and it had expired a year ago. I’m unsure if I should dispense and if the prescription is still valid. For answers, I will call:

Correct answer: COBC                   95% of respondents were correct!

The COBC is responsible for enforcing specific legislation that opticians work under. These include the regulations within the Health Professions Act, the Standards of Practice, the Code of Ethics and Bylaws. As such, the COBC can provide direction, guidance, and practice advice for registrants when needed.


2.   My Continuing Education is due end of 2018 and I am interested in learning more about toric lenses. I need to find a course or event in the next short while to help me expand my knowledge on this topic and also complete my requirements. I will call:

Correct answer: OAC                     64% of respondents were correct!

The COBC sets the requirements for opticians to remain competent, but does not directly provide education unless it specifically relates to the functions of the COBC. Further, the COBC rarely has specific information on the courses and events being offered elsewhere. Certain sponsors and other professional opticianry organizations will offer those activities, including the OAC, who maintains an online library of approved, accredited education options available to their members.


3.   I am a refracting optician and contact lens fitter. My colleague disclosed to me that while I was away on vacation our manager asked them to complete an automated refraction although they are not certified to do refracting. I need to call:

Correct answer: COBC                   89% of respondents were correct!

The COBC is responsible for regulating the profession, in the interest of public safety. As such, the COBC has a process in place should members of the public or other opticians have a concern about the conduct or competence of a Licensed Optician. The COBC investigates matters of alleged professional misconduct and claims that a registrant has practiced outside of the scope of their registration category. Depending on the situation, the COBC will respond as required by legislation to determine how the matter should be resolved. The COBC does not have jurisdiction to investigate concerns about business practices, financial matters, or poor customer service unless it is indicated that it could be professional misconduct.


4.   I recently re-read the opticians' regulations to ensure that I was following the requirement for automated refracting. I have some thoughts on how to improve the regulations, so I will call:

Correct answer: OAC                     84% of respondents were incorrect.

This is an area where there does appear to be some confusion. The COBC is the regulatory body that has been appointed by the government to ensure public safety in opticianry in BC, and therefore does enforce the regulations. However, the OAC is the organization that advocates for opticians and the profession and is the body that would actively lobby government for changes to regulations. Government would then confirm with the COBC that they would be able to regulate any changes.


5.   I switched employers and my new employer does not provide liability insurance. To obtain liability insurance I can call:

Correct answer: OAC                     75% of respondents were correct!

Professional liability insurance is required by the COBC in order for an optician to obtain and maintain their licence, but the COBC itself does not provide insurance. The OAC offers its members free professional liability insurance, or registrants may purchase it from other insurance companies.


6.   I am interviewing people as we are looking to hire someone new for our practice that can fit contact lenses. In order to determine if the applicants are properly licensed, I will call:

Correct answer: COBC                   93% of respondents were correct!

The COBC provides licensing for qualified opticians in BC, and regulates the profession by ensuring Licensed Opticians are qualified to practice and consistently provide safe, ethical, and competent care to their patients. In BC, anyone wishing to practice opticianry, identify with the protected titles, and conduct restricted activities are required to register with the COBC. Anyone can check with the COBC to see if an optician is licensed.  


7.   Upon confirming my final applicant, who indicated on their resume that they are a Contact Lens Fitter and Optician, I was advised that they are not currently licensed. To conduct a “Right to Title” inspection, I will call:

Correct answer: COBC                   92% of respondents were correct!

The COBC may conduct inspections as a part of the complaint process, to determine an appropriate resolution. The COBC also conducts right-to-title inspections to ensure that only those registered with the COBC are using the protected titles of “Dispensing Optician”, “Optician”, “Contact Lens Fitter”, and any variation of those titles. These inspections could be be initiated by a member of the  public, other stakeholders,  registrants, or from the COBC itself. .


8.   My co-worker mentioned something to me about a news item they had heard which referenced how blue light technology devices are affecting people. I am interested in the story, so for guidance on where to find the information, I will call:

Correct answer: OAC                     77% of respondents were correct!

As part of their mission statement, the OAC aims to publish journals, reports, and other papers in support of the profession. The only news provided by the COBC relates to its own specific functions, such as communications about renewals, past due continuing education, criminal record checks, and case studies.


9.   I understand the importance of keeping my knowledge current, and am excited about the new Continuing Competency Program (CCP). I have some ideas for goal-setting in mind, but am hoping for some additional guidance. I will call:

Correct answer: COBC                   69% of respondents were correct!

The COBC is required to develop and administer a quality assurance program, to support and promote high practice standards amongst opticians. Licensed Opticians meet entry-to-practice competencies when they are first registered and must continue to meet various benchmarks of competence as they progress in their career, with the help of this type of programming. The CCP is the new program (which is replacing the existing credit-based program) and the COBC can provide guidance and direction to assist registrants in meeting program requirements.


10. I work in a collaborative practice with an Optometrist and we often talk about the similarities and differences within our practice standards. I’d love to share our ideas, so I will call:

Correct answer: COBC                   67% of respondents were correct!

The COBC has a duty to serve and protect the public interest by overseeing the conduct and competence of Licensed Opticians in BC. The COBC sets and enforces practice standards and wants to ensure that our standards are relevant to opticianry practice in BC while fulfilling our mandate to protect the public. Unlike the Opticians Regulations, which are developed by government, the Standards of Practice are created by the COBC through consultation with various experts, the public, other regulated health professions, and registrants of the COBC.


11. I often have patients asking me for materials about general eye health. I want to gather some resources to keep in my practice. I will call:

Correct answer: OAC                     66% of respondents were correct!

The OAC provides consumer education through postings on its website, social media channels, by responding to consumer questions, and by initiating and encouraging community outreach programs. The COBC would educate the public about the reasons to see a Licensed Optician, and what they should expect when obtaining services from a regulated health care professional.


Thank you to those registrants who participated in our survey! We hope that the information provided above and in our previous post helps clarify some of the differences between the COBC and the OAC.

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