As reflective practitioners, orthoptists take a value-based and holistic approach that’s interdisciplinary, team oriented, and centered on people, patient and community.

Interested in visual disorders and eye care? Want a career that combines diagnostic, technical and therapeutic skills? St. Kate’s orthoptics major and certification prepares you to care for children with visual disorders and adults with eye muscle problems.

As an orthoptist, you will serve on an eye-care team led by a pediatric or neuro-ophthalmologist — and perform sensorimotor examinations and suggest treatment options. You may also be involved with implementing non-surgical treatment plans and providing follow-up care. Learn more about the field of orthoptics »

Eye care leader

St. Kate’s orthoptics major is one of a kind. It’s the only program in the United States where you can earn a Bachelor of Science degree and get ready for the Certified Orthoptist (C.O.) exam administered by the American Orthoptic Council. Most other programs require you to first complete a bachelor's degree, then a 24-month orthoptics curriculum sponsored by a clinic.

At St. Kate’s, orthoptics is a 4 1/2 year program that includes clinical experiences and a residency. We also offer a two-year ophthalmic technician program — the first in Minnesota.

Accredited, well-rounded curriculum

Our curriculum is accredited by the American Orthoptic Council and deeply rooted in the liberal arts (which teaches you to think big picture) and Catholic Social Teaching (to respect and help others). In addition to rigorous courses in optics, ocular motility, eye care pharmacology and instrument maintenance, you must enroll in physics, human anatomy, physiology, statistics and philosophy/ethics.

We also require the “Lifespan Developmental Psychology” course, which addresses how genetics and the environment affect mental and overall health.Our goal is to prepare you to become an integral part of any eye-care team.

Technical Standards: Orthoptics Program

Orthoptists must possess the knowledge and skills to provide care to patients with a wide variety of ophthalmic needs. They must be able to work effectively with patients of all ages and abilities, as well as their families. They must be able to integrate information quickly, accurately and consistently and must possess the intellectual capacity to learn, analyze, synthesize, integrate and communicate data.

For these reasons, the Orthoptic Major at St. Catherine University outlines technical standards which identify the abilities students must possess to successfully complete coursework in preparation for orthoptic practice.

Students must possess:

  • The capacity for observation and participation in academic, clinical, and other medical settings; functional visual acuity (visual acuity adequate for detecting small eye movements through a patient's spectacle lenses), oral-auditory sensation sufficient to observe and assess a patient's condition and perform procedures regularly required during patient care.
  • The ability to read, write, speak and understand English at a level consistent with successful course completion and development of positive patient-provider relationships; effective written and verbal communications skills sufficient for both academic and healthcare settings.
  • Effective interpersonal skills necessary for productive classroom discussion, respectful interaction with classmates and faculty and the development of supportive patient-provider relationships.
  • Gross and fine motor function to perform diagnostic maneuvers necessary for patient care, diagnosis and management; for movement in the patient care setting and between facilities and buildings in academic and healthcare environments; physical stamina to complete academic and clinical coursework.
  • Intellectual ability to quickly learn, measure, calculate, integrate, critically analyze, synthesize and reason in the context of clinical medical problem-solving in both academic and patient care settings.
  • Emotional health and stability required for exercising good judgment, full use of intellectual abilities and prompt completion of all academic and patient care responsibilities; the ability to be flexible, adapt to changing environments and face uncertainty, difficulties and/or sadness inherent in orthoptic practice.

Prior to enrollment, students must certify their ability to comply with the program's technical standards, with or without accommodation, that are associated with attaining the knowledge and skills necessary to practice as an orthoptist, which includes safe and effective patient care in a variety of clinical scenarios.

Flexible program

St. Kate’s orthoptics major is versatile. You can start at the beginning, transfer into it or complete the bachelor's degree if you are already an ophthalmic technician or currently in an ophthalmic technician program.

Classroom to career

St. Kate’s students are eligible to take the national American Orthoptic Council certifying exam in the summer/fall of their graduation year. Our dedicated faculty, with certified orthoptic credentials themselves, will mentor you through each required step for becoming an orthoptist.

Orthoptics is a specialized profession that is both intellectually challenging and rewarding. There is currently a national shortage so job opportunities are promising.

Impressive eye care lab

Our student lab is outfitted with a variety of modern eye care equipment to prepare you for the real world. These include fully equipped eye exam lanes with computerized vision charts, slit lamps, teaching arm, a synoptophore, a Lancaster Red-Green test, Keratometers, Lensometers, automated and manual visual field perimeters, and hand-held instruments that are used on a daily basis in eye clinics.

The lab is also well stocked with eye patches, lenses, contact lenses and prisms. We have a mock operating suite as well for practicing aseptic techniques.

Long-standing healthcare reputation

St. Kate’s approach to healthcare education — interdisciplinary, relationship centered and community based — embraces emerging concepts of healthcare delivery. Our orthoptics program is part of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, which is home to more than 20 professional and pre-professional healthcare programs — and 900 clinical training partners throughout the Twin Cities.

This means you have opportunities to participate in many community work and learning projects, and increasing your chances of impressing a prospective employer.

Faculty experts

Our faculty are captivating teachers, active researchers and influential members of professional organizations. Assistant Professor Lisa Rovick, for example, has received the coveted Lancaster Medal from the American Association of Certified Orthoptists. The lifetime award recognizes an orthoptist’s outstanding contribution to the field.

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