Optometry as a profession in Nigeria has had ups and downs just like every other profession.
In the health sector, Optometry is one of the relegated disciplines, this is generally because an average Nigerian recognizes the medical profession as the ultimate health care disciple.
Even in basic sciences in primary education as children, we were taught that medical doctors were trained to manage all health challenges.
The office of an Optometrist has overtime been undermined and overlooked. The household name for eye care providers is the optician and the ophthalmologist.
In practice, from my little experience, Optometrists are very necessary authorities in eye care. With adequate referrals and management, an Optometrist has been able to treat and manage eye problems and to a great extent, detect systemic health conditions.
In Nigeria, optometry as a profession is not given the recognition it deserves, this could be due to the competitive nature of other health care providers within and outside the profession. Other professions in the health sector tend to encroach into eye care. Because of the general knowledge of the average Nigerian, ocular related conditions, as well as vision anomalies, are reported to the general medical practitioner.
Most health centers don’t have consulting Optometrist. And finding a suitable place for graduating Optometrist to commence their internship is always hard.
A lot will have to be done to bring Optometry to a standard level as in other countries. A lot of things need to be gotten right as regards to the optometry practice in Nigeria starting from the uniformity of curriculum amongst all schools offering Optometry.
The governing bodies of Optometry have to be willing to fight for what’s right for the practitioners, we can’t continue paying to and heeding the rules of bodies that do not have our interest at heart.
I look forward to the day I will be proud to be called an Optometrist and not mistaken for an optician.