Registration During COVID-19 – 2020 Applicant Update

We have recently received questions from recent graduates regarding the College’s registration process and requirements during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the registration requirements?

In order for the College to issue a Certificate of Registration, applicants must meet a number of requirements set out in regulation.  Two of the most significant requirements are completion of the Jurisprudence examination (the College) and entry-to-practice (ETP) examination (NBEO or OEBC).

What is the status of the ETP exams?

In order to be registered as an Ontario optometrist, an applicant must successfully pass one of the following two exams offered by the Optometry Examining Board of Canada (OEBC) or the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO). Due to COVID-19, both exam providers have either postponed or rescheduled their exam dates.

Can the College register an applicant prior to completion of the ETP exam, given the circumstances?

No.  The College is not able to register an applicant prior to successful completion of one of these exams, given the requirements set out in the registration regulation.

The College has considered alternatives. However, unlike other professions or jurisdictions, the registration regulation does not allow the College to register graduates on an emergency basis or in an intern role.  It is also the view of the College that the ETP exam is a critical part of the registration process, one that assures the safety and competence of the applicant prior to registration.

What can I do in the meantime?

Applicants can complete the Jurisprudence exam, which is also a registration requirement.  This exam, administered by the College, is now available to applicants on-line.  Applicants can register for this exam electronically.

Can I practise while I am waiting for the entry-to-practice exam to be rescheduled?

No.  You must receive a Certificate of Registration prior to practising independently as an optometrist in Ontario.  You cannot be registered until you have successfully passed the exam.

However, you could practise under the direct supervision and responsibility of another optometrist.  In order to do this, you and your supervising/delegating optometrist would need to carefully review and comply with the requirements set out in the OPR 4.3. Further information is set out below, but some of the key requirements are as follows:

  1. Delegation of a controlled act must only take place when the optometrist is present in the same clinical location as the patient and is available to intervene when required.
  2. The patient must consent prior to receiving any treatment from the applicant; and
  3. The applicant may not identify themselves as an optometrist or use the title ‘Doctor’.

In Ontario,  the term “controlled acts” defines who may perform health care procedures that have a high risk of harm. The Optometry Act, 1991, specifies the controlled acts that optometrists are authorized to perform. In addition, there may be other procedures that pose a high risk and require skill and training. A registered optometrist can order another individual to perform one of these controlled acts or another non-controlled procedure under their supervision. This process is referred to as delegation and assignment under the Optometric Practice Reference (4.3 Delegation and Assignment).

The College understands that this pandemic has caused tremendous personal and professional disruption for graduating students, who are ready to begin their professional lives as optometrists.  We will keep you informed as things change.  Please contact us if you have any questions.