Virginia Scope of Practice

Optometry in the Old dominion state


The “Old Dominion” state of Virginia is a wonderland for eye care professionals looking to explore American history. From Thomas Jefferson’s house at Monticello to the colonial settlement of Williamsburg, Virginia is a state rich in American Revolutionary history.

The state capital of Richmond is a smaller city that offers both an intimate atmosphere and cultural diversity, along with some unique restaurants. The city has many suburbs and areas nearby with different aspects, from shopping to farming and vineyards. The most populated area of the state, Virginia Beach, sits at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and has seen a steady growth in population for the past thirty years, making it a prime destination to set up a practice. Further West, Virginia offers breathtaking Appalachian mountains to entice future docs looking for a more rural lifestyles. One of the most famous outdoor landmarks is the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34.3 mile trail through mountains, streams, and perfect for anyone who likes to hike or bike.

The state of Virginia currently hosts five residency locations including one in Charlottesville at to the University of Virginia. Students who are looking to work alongside ophthalmologists at a premiere research institution should consider applying to UVA after graduating from optometry school. The residencies offered in Virginia include primary care, community healthcare, low vision, & ocular disease. Students looking to apply for residency can do so at ORMatch.

In Virginia, optometrists CAN:

  • Administer medications by injection, including subcutaneous infiltrative, intralesional, intramuscular, intravenous, and subconjunctival routes
  • Perform minor surgical procedures to correct ocular abnormalities, such as removal of “lumps and bumps” around the eye
  • Prescribe oral medications, including Schedules II (hydrocodone-combination products), III, IV, and V drugs
  • Prescribe oral steroids
  • Diagnose and treat glaucoma with topical and oral drugs
  • Co-manage post-op care
  • Perform procedures such as foreign body removal, dilation and irrigation, punctal occlusion, and eyelash epilation
  • Dispense glasses and contact lenses

In Virginia, optometrists CANNOT:

  • Perform anterior segment laser procedures including YAG capsulotomy used to treat cloudy lens implants following cataract surgery, Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) and Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI) used to treat some forms of glaucoma
  • Perform cataract extractions, retinal surgery, or refractive surgery (such as LASIK)
  • Laser or non-laser injection into the posterior chamber of the eye to treat any macular or retinal disease
  • Administer general anesthesia

For future eye doctors looking to practice in Virginia, the Virginia Optometric Association (VOA) is hard at work defending your rights as a physician and working to expand your scope of practice. In fact, recent Senate Bill 511 pushed scope of practice to allow for optometrists to inject steroids into chalazia and other lid lesions- a skill set that has been taught at optometry schools for years.

However, victories like SB 511 don’t happen without the help of active and passionate VOA members. The profession of optometry is dependent on the civic engagement of optometrists and optometry students. Consider joining the VOA if you currently practice or plan on practicing in Virginia. For more articles about the optometric scope of practice in other states, click here!


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