From Nursing to Optometry: A Guide to Making the Switch

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The switch from Nursing to Optometry is a transformative move within the diverse healthcare environment. While Nursing involves different patient care roles, Optometry deals with the complex world of vision and ocular health.

This transition comes with an opportunity for healthcare professionals to divert their expertise into a specialist field that plays an essential role in improving quality of life.

The move from Nursing to Optometry is a journey that requires flexibility, being open-minded, and a professional commitment to providing outstanding eye care.

If you are considering transitioning from Nursing to Optometry, you are not alone; we are here for you. In this article, we explore the reasons, cons, and pros surrounding the transition from Nursing to Optometry.

Why Move From Nursing to Optometry?

If you want your professional practice to take a new and specialized direction within the healthcare environment, switching from Nursing to Optometry promises significant developments.

This transition allows you to utilize your existing skills in a different aspect of patient care. Reasons abound as to why you may want to make this switch, and we have highlighted some below.

1. Focus on Specialized Care

With Optometry, you have a specialized opportunity to focus solely on ocular health. When you move from Nursing to Optometry, you get to dissipate your compassion and dedication into a single area, attending to patients’ visual health, and catering to an important part of the body.

2. Enhanced Diagnostic Role

An optometrist plays a key role in diagnosing visual ailments and eye conditions. The move from Nursing to Optometry equips healthcare professionals to become experts in leveraging advanced diagnostic tools, developing their ability to treat a wide range of eye-related problems.

3. Direct Patient Impact

Like nurses, optometrists work closely with patients. The difference, however, is that when you transition into Optometry, you get the opportunity to influence patients more specifically in terms of vision enhancement, ocular health management, and correcting issues like myopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia.

4. Personal and Professional Growth

The move from Nursing to Optometry comes with a new challenge that inspires personal and professional development. It demands specialized skills and knowledge, leading to a transformative learning process and skill development.

5. Broaden Healthcare Horizons

When you switch from Nursing to Optometry, your understanding of the healthcare environment takes a wider dimension. This transition helps you make sense of the complex connection between ocular health, and overall being, contributing to a wholesome approach to healthcare delivery.

6. Embrace Technological Advancements

Optometry is at the center of technological advancements, using advanced diagnostic tools and treatment methods. Transitioning from Nursing to Optometry enables healthcare professionals to interact with world-class technologies that improve patient care, and diagnostic precision.

7. Diverse Career Paths

Optometry comes with boundless career opportunities, ranging from private practice to academic research to corporate organizations and specialized fields such as low vision rehabilitation. With this world of opportunities, you can build a niche that suits you and is in line with your passion and professional goals.

8. Meeting Growing Demand

With the rise of digital screens and increasing public awareness about eye health, the demand for expert optometrists has never been higher. When you switch from Nursing to Optometry, you enjoy the benefits of a field with increasing demand for specialized care.

Can a Nurse Become an Optometrist?

With the right education, training, and determination, switching from being a Nurse to an Optometrist is possible.

Although Nursing and Optometry are two different fields within the healthcare environment, the skills and expertise you have as a Nurse can be brought to bear in your pursuit of a career in Optometry.

optician doing optometry exam

To make this transition, you must obtain a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree, which involves completing a specialized optometry program. As a Nurse who wants to become an optometrist, you will have to obtain further education to get the requisite knowledge and skills related to ocular health and eye care.

The journey usually begins with bagging a bachelor’s degree, though some optometry schools may admit applicants who have completed a select number of college credits.

Once you meet the academic prerequisites, the next thing you want to do is gain admission to an accredited optometry program. These programs typically run for four years, giving you comprehensive education in diagnosing and treating visual ailments, ocular disorders, and vision enhancement techniques.

After graduating from the program, you must take and pass a licensing exam to become a licensed optometrist. This comes in written and clinical parts of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) exams.

When you are licensed, you become a full-fledged optometrist and can practice, whether independently or with other healthcare professionals, to provide quality eye care services.

How to Become an Ophthalmic Nurse Practitioner

Suppose you plan to become an Ophthalmic Nurse Practitioner (ONP). Congratulations to you, as this is an excellent career path that promises enriching rewards. Below is a guide on how to carve a path in the profession.

  1. Educational Foundation: To become an Ophthalmic Nurse Practitioner, you must first be a Nurse, which requires earning a bachelor’s degree (BSN) in Nursing.
  2. Registered Nurse (RN) Licensure: Next, acquire your RN licensure by passing the NCLEX-RN exam.
  3. Gain Experience: Amass experience in Nursing, preferably in Ophthalmology or a related area. You can also apply to work in Ophthalmology clinics or departments, exposing you to valuable eye care practices.
  4. Graduate Education: Obtain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) specializing in Ophthalmology or Ophthalmic Nursing. This advanced training usually takes two to three years of full-time study.
  5. Certification: Next, you should acquire certification as an Ophthalmic Nurse Practitioner through a recognized body like the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Certification showcases your expertise in the field.
  6. Professional Networking: Professional networking is another move you cannot go wrong with. Be a part of professional organizations like the American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses (ASORN) to interact with peers, access resources, and stay updated on industry developments.

Pros and Cons of moving from RN/BSN to Optometry

nurse checking time for shifts


  • Specialized Expertise
  • Better Earning Capacity
  • Opportunities for Career Development
  • Direct Patient Care
  • Advanced Diagnostic Methods
  • Total Approach to Healthcare
  • Growing Demand


  • Educational Investment
  • Financial Investment
  • Skill Adaptation
  • Investment of Time
  • Limited Patient Interaction
  • Scope Shift
  • Licensing and Certification Demands


The journey from Nursing to Optometry is a dynamic one. It comes with challenges and rewards. While it demands additional education skills adaptation, the switch provides a space to specialize in ocular health, make direct contributions to eye care, and enjoy the thrills of a field with growing acceptance.

As a Nurse, you can mobilize your compassion, patient care experience, and dedication to improve your quality of life through outstanding eye care services.

This article has covered everything you need to know about moving from Nursing to Optometry.

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