West Virginia Scope of Practice

West Virginia is home to historic mining towns, beautiful cities, and a rich cultural heritage. Tucked within the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is renowned for its beautiful camping, hiking, white water rafting, and other outdoor activities.

Within the state, West Virginia has a vast need for both optometric and primary care. West Virginia currently leads the nation in the total percentage of residents with type II diabetes at 15%. As an optometrist, you will have a critical role in prevention of diabetic retinopathy and future blindness within your patient population.

You will often be serving in the public health capacity as you network your patients within the fields of primary care, podiatry, and pharmacy. To many patients within the rural West Virginia mountains, optometrists are often the only physicians seen each year. As a West Virginian OD, it will be your job to monitor your patients for diabetes, hypertension, traumatic brain injuries, aneurysms, and many more.

According to a World Atlas study conducted in 2017, only 17% of West Virginia citizens have a Bachelor’s degree, the lowest in the US. To many West Virginia patients, binocular vision disorders and learning disabilities can be remedied with vision therapy. As an optometrist within the state, you will have a huge potential impact on the future education and success of your native patient population.

As an Optometric Physician in the Mountain State, you will be practicing under some of the best optometry laws in the country. West Virginia boasts one of the most complete scopes of optometric practice, including oral prescriptive authority, minor surgical procedures, and injectables. In fact, in 1976, West Virginia became the first state to pass an optometry therapeutics law.

In West Virginia, optometrists CAN:

  • Administer or prescribe any drug for topical application to the anterior segment of the human eye for use in the examination, diagnosis or treatment of diseases and conditions of the human eye and its appendages
  • Administer or prescribe oral medications (including Schedule III, IV, and IV) for use in the examination, diagnosis or treatment of diseases and conditions of the human eye and its appendages including oral antibiotics, NSAIDs, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, antihistamines, corticosteroids, analgesics, and nutritional supplements
  • Administer or prescribe Schedule II oral narcotic analgesics for no more than three days
  • Administer epinephrine by injection to treat emergency cases of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock
  • Administer medications including anesthetics by injection, including subcutaneous infiltrative, intralesional, intramuscular, intravenous, and subconjunctival routes
  • Remove a foreign body from the ocular surface and adnexa using topical anesthesia
  • Perform epilation of lashes by forceps, closure of punctum by plug, dilation of the lacrimal puncta with or without irrigation
  • Perform minor surgical procedures to remove or treat ocular abnormalities such as chalazion or cyst removal
  • Diagnose and treat glaucoma with topical and oral drugs
  • Co-manage post-operative care
  • Prescribe and dispense contact lenses that contain and deliver pharmaceutical agents and that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a drug
  • Prescribe, fit, apply, replace, duplicate or alter lenses, prisms, contact lenses, orthoptics, vision training, vision rehabilitation
  • Furnish or provide any prosthetic device to correct or relieve any defects or abnormal conditions of the human eye and its appendages
  • Order laboratory tests rational to the examination, diagnosis, and treatment of a disease or condition of the human eye and its appendages
  • Use a diagnostic laser such as OCT

In West Virginia, optometrists CANNOT:

  • Perform retrobulbar or peribulbar injections
  • Perform cataract or retinal surgery
  • Use a therapeutic laser
  • Treat systemic disease

Optometry is a legislated profession, and the West Virginia Association of Optometric Physicians (WVAOP) work tirelessly to help West Virginia optometrists practice to their fullest scope of knowledge. The purpose of the WVAOP is to meet the vision and eye care needs of the citizens of West Virginia. By providing advanced continuing education, promoting the highest ethical standards, and advocating for the profession of optometry, the WVAOP is the best optometric advocate within the state.

The WVAOP holds two large meetings each year – a mid-year meeting at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulpher Springs, WV, and an annual fall congress in West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston. Thinking of practicing optometry in West Virginia? Contact the West Virginia Association of Optometric Physicians today!

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