Pennsylvania Scope of Practice

What do the Liberty Bell, Declaration of Independence, and the Franklin bifocal all have in common? They all have roots in the great state of Pennsylvania! From Scranton (featured on the NBC hit series The Office) to Hershey (the nation’s chocolate capital), Pennsylvania boasts a wide range of cultural and historical heritage. Philadelphia, known as “The City of Brotherly Love,” is home to some of the nation’s most historic parks, buildings, and artifacts that were cornerstones to American independence.

Philly is also the home to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry – Salus University as well as the NFL team the Philadelphia Eagles. Pittsburgh is known as the “City of Bridges” and is home to the iconic Liberty Tunnel, seen in the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower. Those who hail from Pittsburgh also share their love for the NHL team the Penguins & the NFL team the Steelers. These world-famous and cinematic icons are just the start of the many reasons optometrists flock to Pennsylvania to practice optometry.

Pennsylvania optometrists CAN:

  • Administer and prescribe drugs for the treatment of the eye, eyelids, the lacrimal system, and conjunctiva
  • Remove superficial foreign bodies from the ocular surface and adnexa
  • Prescribe oral steroids
  • Use all topical pharmaceuticals to manage and treat primary open-angle glaucoma, exfoliation glaucoma, and pigmentary glaucoma
  • Order laboratory work
  • Perform dilation and irrigation

Pennsylvania optometrists CANNOT:

  • Treat diseases or conditions of the eye longer than six weeks (with the exception of glaucoma) without a documented consultation with a licensed physician
  • Use Schedule I and Schedule II controlled substances
  • Treat systemic diseases
  • Perform laser procedures for therapeutic purposes (YAG, LPI, SLT, etc. )
  • Perform injections to treat ocular disease or to counter anaphylaxis
  • Use the term “optometric physician”

The Pennsylvania Doctors of Optometry are protected and advocated for by the Pennsylvania Optometric Association (POA), which is affiliated with the American Optometric Association. Currently, a strategic plan has been formed to establish the goals of the POA for the next three years. This plan has an emphasis on the quality and responsiveness of services that optometrists can provide. The full plan is available here.

Recent Advocacy News:

Pennsylvania is the most recent state to consider banning online eye exams.  Senate Bill 780 is an act that provides for telemedicine and insurance coverage. Currently, this bill has guidelines that “allow a doctor-patient relationship to be established via telehealth, payment and coverage for payers and allowances, and forward telehealth.” However, the bill excludes “an automated computer program used to diagnose or treat ocular or refractive conditions. Telemedicine supporters over online eye exams and state lawmakers are now looking at this bill in Pennsylvania to establish guidelines and includes a proposal to ban ocular telehealth.

Students and recent graduates can shape the future of optometry and the right time to get involved is now! Student members of the POA receive the same benefits as optometrist members. To become a student member, contact the POA office at  Once a recent graduate has obtained a Pennsylvania license and the POA receives notice, you will be granted free membership immediately in the POA.

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