In 1901, the Minnesota Board of Optometry was the first Optometric Board established in the United States. The original charge was focused on public safety and entry level optometric education and apprenticeship requirements. The original intent is strikingly similar to the current Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 148. Regulation is accomplished through initial licensure education and examination, annual renewal, required continuing education, as well as investigation and resolution of complaints against licensees. The Board of Optometry is responsible for protection of the public through the regulation of optometrists in the State of Minnesota.
The Board’s strategies and values include:
The Board protects the safety and welfare of the citizens of Minnesota through the administration and implementation of the Minnesota Optometry Act, Chapter 148. The Optometry Act, not only provides for the regulation of the optometric profession, but lists the powers of the board, and current governance and requires:
examination and licensure of optometrists,
renewal of licenses on an annual basis,
endorsement of license for ease of interstate transfers
approval of continuing education courses and recording continuing education hours,
investigation and enforcement of compliance with the Act,
responding to questions, concerns and complaints of the general public, and
operating the administrative functions of the agency to facilitate the listed activities.
The functions listed above are needed to protect the public health and provide the quality of health care that the citizens of Minnesota deserve. The importance of proper vision correction cannot be underestimated (169 million Americans wore eyeglasses or contact lenses in 2001)1. Academics, driving, reading, sports, most professions, and in fact, almost all aspects of everyday life are dependent on good eyesight. Optometrists perform a majority of the eye examinations in the United States, and a substantial number of patients selecting a new eye doctor choose an optometrist as their eye care provider.2 Therapeutic optometrists are trained and licensed to treat diseases and conditions of the eye that require treatment in addition to corrective lenses and prisms, and may administer and prescribe certain topical prescription drugs. A thorough eye examination not only uncovers diseases and visual abnormalities of the eye, but may detect other medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Minnesota requires all Optometrists to be therapeutically certified in order to safely use legend drugs by August 1, 2012.
Federal law requires that both eyeglasses and contact lenses be prescribed only by licensed optometrists or physicians. Federal law also requires a licensed doctor’s prescription for the topical prescriptions used and prescribed by therapeutic optometrists, and the oral and glaucoma medications that may be administered and prescribed by optometric glaucoma specialists.
Licensing and examination:
Only a person with specialized training, both in didactic knowledge of the science and expertise in the clinical procedures, is competent to perform a medically valid examination of the eye. To insure that applicants are competent to perform the eye examination, the board requires its applicants to sit for examinations – both clinical and written. National tests, used by all states and jurisdictions, measure each applicant’s education competency and require a demonstration of the procedures necessary to conduct an eye examination and properly treat abnormal conditions and disease. A new state of the art testing center opened in 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina for national consistency in administering examinations. The MBO also requires information on each applicant, including completion of the required education and criminal history, to insure that the public’s safety will be protected when seeking treatment from the licensee. License renewal requires each licensee to supply information regarding criminal convictions received during the year. To insure that those initially licensed by the agency maintain the expertise and training that were originally certified by the licensing examination, the board requires all licensees to annually obtain 20 hours of continuing education. The continuing education also prompts licensees to gain proficiency in new treatments developed since graduation to promote continued competency in the core areas provided academically and through the examination.
The agency protects the public health by investigating complaints of incompetent treatment, by investigating complaints and disseminating information to insure that licensees follow laws that make eye health care affordable and available to all citizens, by onsite inspections when necessary, including review of the patient records, to determine whether licensees provide competent eye examinations, and by investigating criminal history information on applications to insure that licensees may be trusted by the public to maintain their personal safety, health and financial security.
1 Jobson Publishing LLC, Article on All About Vision Website: allaboutvision.com/resources/statistics.htm
2 2003 Survey by the American Optometric Association reported in American Optometric Association News, vol 41, No. 24, June 16, 2003