Live Free or Die
In my quest to find where in the world to relocate, my boyfriend and I took a little 18 hour drive down to the Music City: Nashville, TN. Though Nashville is known for music, the healthcare industry is the largest "employer" in the city (not to mention it is often considered "the health care capital of the US"--says the Nashville Health Care Council). Given the seriousness in regard to healthcare, it is no surprise that becoming a licensed professional in the state is just about as challenging as coming to the city to make it big as a musician.
The entire time I've been an Optician, I've been aware that some states require licensing while others do not... to some extent being from New Hampshire, the "Live Free or Die" state has left me in the dark in regards to the breadth of what is required from some states. NH wants one thing from those dispensing: register with the state and renew that registration every two years with eight hours of continuing education. That's it. I took my position as an Optician one step further and passed my ABO exam-- not because it was required but mainly because (1) customers/patients feel better about a certification and (2) I figured it would come in handy if I ever left the state (also a selection of other reasons but irrelevant to this). I was feeling pretty confident about having a national certificate until the Tennessee Department of Health took the wind out of my sail for a minute.
To get an idea of what it takes to be an Optician in TN, I tracked down a Nashville Optician: Susan Kistler, formerly of Specs Optical. Susan briefed me on her expedition becoming licensed in TN and (fairly) warned me how difficult it can be to become licensed in the state. When I got home, I looked into this further, even contacting the Tennessee Department of Health to clarify where I stand given my current training and certificate.
Let's start with the current requirements:
1. Complete an application with a check for $270
2. Proof of High School graduation or GED
3. A notarized copy of your birth certificate
4. A passport size photo
5. ABO/NCLE Certification
6. Two (2) letters of recommendation - one must be from a current or past employer
7. Mandatory "practitioner profile questionnaire"
8. Pass a background check
9. Graduate of a two (2) year Opticianry school OR Complete the three (3) year Tennessee Apprenticeship program OR completed three (3) years apprenticeship training from another licensing state (or licensed in a licensing state whose qualifications for licensure are equivalent or greater than Tennessee’s)
As a ABO Certified Optician with nearly two years of practice I basically have to "start over" if I wanted to become licensed (and actually work) in Tennessee. My time dispensing, measuring, cutting, and fitting in my unlicensed state of NH has no official documentation and is therefore not transferable to TN. The only real edge I have is my experience and my ABO Certificate--which really doesn't get me where I was hoping.
Will this obstacle deter me from moving to Tennessee and becoming an Optician? Ultimately, it probably wouldn't be the only thing to stop me, but it sure makes it frustrating. I totally understand the importance of health care and making sure patients are receiving the most accurate information from individuals the community trusts, but it's hard for me to understand the inconsistencies across state lines. My knowledge of lens options for low-vision, my experience edging everything from 8 base prism to drill mounts, my frame selection ability, and a whole collection of other learned skills have no tangible, paper validity in states with licensure similar to TN-- I get brownie points for my experience, but not an "in".
Does anyone else have experience moving from an unlicensed state to a licensed one or find this discouraging? I'd love to hear what other professionals have to say regarding the difference between states. I know the United States is basically divided in half between licensed and unlicensed but why isn't there more cohesion across the country?
Thank you, DailyOptician for allowing me to discuss about this openly AND big thanks to Susan Kistler for the drop-temple, over-sized vintage frame I'm dying to put sunlenses in.