Resources for the Public

Legislative Documents

Government documents related to the practice of Optometry

Optometry Act 2012

Optometry Licensing Regulations 2012

Professional Optometric Corporations Regulations 2012

Diagnostic and Therapeutic Drug Regulations 2012 (amended)


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an optometrist, an ophthalmologist and an optician?

A Doctor of Optometry must complete a 3-4 year Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.) and a 4-year Doctor of Optometry degree (O.D.) before successfully passing the Canadian National Optometry Board Exam. Optometrists provide the vast majority of primary vision care services in Newfoundland and Labrador. They:

  • Examine, assess, measure and diagnose disorders and diseases of the human visual system, the eye and its associated structures.
  • Recognize and detect related systemic conditions.
  • Treat, manage and correct disorders and diseases of the human visual system, the eye and its associated structures.
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses and low vision devices.
  • Diagnose, treat and manage binocular and perceptual vision disorders.
  • Conduct research and promote education in the vision sciences.
  • Must maintain their skill set and level of competency by completing the requirements of the Continuing Competence Program through continuing education courses, participating in an on-site practice review on a regular basis and practicing a minimum number of days in each 3-year competency period.

Ophthalmologists complete a 2-4 year Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.), a 4-year medical degree (M.D.) and an additional 5-year residency specializing in eye surgery and secondary vision care consultations. They typically do not provide refractions or other primary vision care services.

Opticians develop their skill set by working in a retail optical dispensary while completing a 2-year correspondence course from NAIT that is supplemented by one evening lecture per month and two compulsory lab sessions per year. They design, fit and dispense eyeglasses and contact lenses that are prescribed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Are glasses and contact lenses purchased over the internet safe?

It is the opinion of the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Optometrists that patients are able to fill their optical prescription at the provider of their choice.

All optometrists have to abide by strict rules when prescribing or dispensing eyeglasses and contact lenses. They also have to maintain their skill and competency in these areas. Mail order and internet-based companies do not have to abide by these same rules and standards. Recent investigations report that many prescriptions filled by mail order or internet based companies did not meet the same strict standards required by optometrists.

Since dispensing services are not paid for by MCP, you should ask your optometrist ahead of time what fee they will charge to verify if your prescription was ground correctly and/or properly fit your eyewear for purchases from mail order or internet based companies.

What is an eyeglass prescription, a PD and a contact lens prescription?

An eyeglass (or optical) prescription is defined as the written record of the refractive error of the eye, including, if appropriate, reading add, prism and back vertex distance. Other eyeglass prescription specifications may also be included on the written copy as per the professional discretion of the prescribing optometrist. An eyeglass prescription can usually be arrived at and issued following a complete eye examination. In selected situations (such as fluctuating blood sugars, corneal infections, etc.); your optometrist may require additional testing to ensure the accuracy and stability of your refractive status before issuing an eyeglass prescription. This is just one of the reasons for requiring a complete eye examination as compared to a stand-alone sight test before purchasing new eyeglasses.

A PD is a measurement of the distance between the centers of your two eyes. It is required when fabricating eyeglasses to ensure that your eyes are looking through the center of your lenses. Eyeglasses that are not set to your exact PD can cause headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision and/or double vision. The measurement of a PD is considered one of the required procedures for fabricating eyeglasses and not one of the procedures of an eye exam. The individual or company that supplies your eyeglasses is responsible for measuring your PD and ensuring that your finished glasses are fabricated to this measurement. In addition, this individual or company is also responsible for measuring the fitting height for multifocals, selecting and adjusting an appropriate frame, selecting an appropriate lens material and selecting an appropriate lens coating or tint. As noted above, all of these services should be performed by the individual or company you purchase your glasses from.

The specifications for purchasing contact lenses are different than the specifications for purchasing eyeglasses. In order to issue a contact lens prescription, additional specialized testing and a contact lens fitting must be performed after completing a complete eye examination. After completing all the services required to dispense contact lenses, regulated members must instruct the patient in proper contact lens insertion/removal techniques, wearing schedules, lens cleaning regimens and replacement frequencies in order to ensure lifelong healthy eyes.

The Newfoundland and Labrador College of Optometrists Guidelines to the Standards of Practice states that all optometrists must write the date of issue of the optical prescription or contact lens specifications, as well as the expiry date of the optical prescription or contact lens specifications, on the patient’s prescription form. The expiration date for optical prescriptions and contact lens specifications is left to the professional discretion of the optometrist based on the medical and/or visual condition of the patient.