As we start the new calendar year, our focus in the office shifts towards preparing for renewal. This is a great time to remind you why you renew your licence each year, and what can happen if you choose not to.
What does registering with the College of Opticians of British Columbia mean?
As Opticians and Contact Lens Fitters, you are recognized as regulated health professionals under the Health Professions Act in British Columbia. This signifies to your patients that you have received appropriate education, successfully completed the licensing examination, and that you continue to meet all ongoing requirements of the provincial regulatory body (the College of Opticians of British Columbia). Being a registrant of the College (COBC) signifies to the public that you are competent and can be trusted to provide safe healthcare services. You work hard to achieve this professional status and the COBC is here to assist you with renewing your registration each year so that you remain a regulated health professional throughout your career.
In order to use the title of Optician and Contact Lens fitter, and to perform restricted activities such as contact lens fittings and automated refractions in BC, you must be registered with the COBC. This is noted in the Opticians Regulations for British Columbia
What about the rest of Canada?
British Columbia is the only province where a trained optician can sell and dispense eyeglasses without registering with the college as long as they are not using the title of Optician. The remaining nine provinces require that anyone who has completed training and is dispensing eyeglasses is registered with their respective regulatory body.
All Canadian provinces, with the exception of Quebec are part of the Mutual Recognition Agreement, also
known as Labour Mobility. This allows opticians who are registered in good standing with their provincial college to move to another province and be recognized for registration without completing additional training or examination. The only exception to this is Ontario where opticians must have successfully completed the licensing exam for both eyeglasses and contact lenses in order to be registered. They do not offer dispensing-only licences.
How can maintaining your license save time and cost in the long run?
In the short time I have been working at the COBC, I have encountered many registrants who
have decided to allow their registration to become suspended because they could not see the value in being a regulated health professional. Regulation is essential to upholding standards of healthcare services and in many cases, people have found that they need to reinstate their licence later in their
In order to ensure competence and the provision of safe, professional services to the public, any former registrant who has not been registered for three years or more, completes the Competency Gap Analysis (CGA) to assess entry-to-practice skills before they can reinstate. If any gaps in knowledge are identified, appropriate bridging courses are assigned to address the specific deficiencies. In addition to the CGA, the former registrant must meet all the standard requirements for registration, including completing a criminal record check. Once these are completed, the individual is eligible to apply for reinstatement and a letter of good standing will be provided.
What does this process look like?
One former registrant who had not been registered with the COBC since the changes to regulations
for eyeglass dispensing in 2010, had the following experience. They moved to another Canadian province and during the process of opening their own optical business, were informed that in order to dispense eyeglasses they would need to be registered with their provincial college. This required either recent
graduation from a recognised opticianry program and successful completion of the national exam OR, thanks to the aforementioned Labour Mobility agreement, a letter of good standing from another provincial college. Due to the time they had left in between their initial registration and reinstating with us, they had to complete the CGA and the reinstatement application process before we could provide them with a letter of good standing. This process takes time and can cause frustration and delays to the optician starting work in their new province. This could have been avoided if the individual had been registered in good standing with the COBC before their move.
In another example, the former registrant had let their license lapse and four years later needed
to reinstate as they had taken a new position in which the employer required them to be licensed. They had to write the CGA, complete a bridging module and then apply to the college before they could reinstate. The COBC does not insist on these requirements to punish, but to ensure that all our registrants are competent enough to provide the appropriate standard of care to the public. This is one of our key functions as a regulatory college. The individual in this example rightfully acknowledged that by the end of this process, they had invested the same amount as they would have if they had simply maintained their licence. The reinstatement process can take weeks, months, or even years to complete
depending on the application, so your time is also a consideration.
These are just two examples of the frustrating situations former registrants have encountered in the last six months. As I noted earlier, you work very hard to obtain the designation of Licensed Optician and become a regulated health professional. Statistics show that there is a demand for opticians across Canada. The public trusts that Licensed Opticians provide high quality, competent and professional care to help people accessing health care achieve better vision, and by being registered with the COBC, the public will be able to find you on our online registry.
Please consider this as you renew your registration this year and remember; we at the COBC are here to answer your questions if you are having any difficulty with the process or questioning the value of registration. We want to support you in your work as Licensed Opticians.