By Douglas H Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs –
Getting framed is now a fashionable eye-opening experience courtesy of Naval Hospital Bremerton’s Optometry Clinic.
Those old jokes about Navy-issue eyeglasses being called ‘birth-control’ are not applicable anymore with a host of new stylish frames available from which to pick and choose.
Since the new frames – nine different colors, style and sizes – were introduced in October, Optometry’s Optical Support Unit has made 1,124 new pairs of eye glasses for customers.
“We support all service commands throughout the greater Pacific Northwest from Alaska to Idaho to Washington. People have been pleasantly surprised but have also asked if the new frames are really options and if they are in regulations,” said Lt. Abbey Nelson, Optometry Department Head and Optometrist.
Optometry has provided 16,436 pairs of eyeglasses over the last year.
“Everyone has eyes. Business is booming. Not only are we providing eye glasses, we’ve also done a ton of referrals for refractory eye surgery with Ophthalmology,” Nelson said, noting that word has gradually filtered out that there are new frames available and Sailors are appreciating the options available to them.
“Style and fashion are cyclical, trending nowadays towards larger frames. We can give our customers nice options they want to wear and not just cram into the bottom of their seabag,” stated Nelson.
Optometry provides two pairs of serviceable eyewear, including inserts if needed for specific jobs that require such modification.
Nelson attests that the process is simple for someone to get new eye glasses and routinely begins with an eye exam. She recommends patients have their eyes examined every 12-24 months unless their doctor recommends otherwise. An eye exam takes approximately an hour.
“Routine vision care should not be an afterthought. When we do an eye exam, we also look at the health of a person’s eye. We stress ocular health exams. It’s always better to catch things early if there are problems,” explained Nelson.
According to Nelson, the top priority of Optometry is direct support to the fleet.
“My main focus to ensure the fleet has what they need, especially operational units. That we can make eyeglasses definitely helps. We can make them on the spot, unless they are something like bifocal then we’ll need to send to Naval Ophthalmic Support & Training Activity (NOSTRA) in Virginia to be made,” she said, noting that the Optometry team takes great pride in knowing that when patients leave after their appointment, they are good to go.
Most new eyeglasses can be fitted, fabricated and finalized the same day as the visit.
The clinic’s Optical Support Unit (OSU) Optical Fabrication Shop is one of 16 fabrication labs in the Navy not counting NOSTRA. They fabricate single vision glasses for all eligible active duty and retired service members who have prescriptions that can be made with the stock lenses.
The service(s) the clinic provides even goes beyond eye exams and eyeglasses .The more glasses the OSU fabricates, the more Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines become operationally ready from a vision standard. The work being done directly impacts the mission readiness of multiple commands across the military spectrum.
The Fabrication Shop is like a high-tech assembly line. Orders than come in follow a strict fabrication process to ensure the highest quality spectacles for every patient. The new frames are then fitted with the necessary lenses.
“We definitely have different designs than before for those who need eyeglasses. It’s really nice to offer. This is a chance to be more stylish,” added Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Brandon Minyard, Optometry Department Leading Petty Officer.
The lenses are then cut, shaped and placed into the frames. Next, the corpsmen verify the prescription of the lenses based on the order and must adhere to very strict established margins of error or the lenses fall out of standards and must be re-fabricated. After the verification process is complete, the lenses and frames are either shipped to a respective clinic or walked to the front to hand deliver to the patient.
“The response to the new frames has been positive. The first time a patient puts their new pair of eyeglasses on, they go, ‘I can see!’ or if it’s a replacement they go, ‘It’s so much clearer without scratches.’ A new wearer will remark how much more clearly they can see and how things are much more in focus than before,” shared Robert Jai, Optometry technician.
The clinic cares for all active duty, drilling Navy Reservists and enrolled beneficiaries with routine eye exams, physical health assessment and physical eye exams, diabetic eye exams, school vision exams – for age six or greater – and glaucoma screening exams. They also provide refractive surgery screenings for active duty personnel only, order eyeglasses and gas mask inserts and handle contact lens prescription renewals.
Patients needing to order glasses or needing repair of military glasses do not need appointments and are welcome to walk in during clinic hours.
Outside prescriptions are accepted. Specialty medically necessary contact lenses are handled on a case by case review basis.
An appointment for NHB Optometry Clinic, BHC Bangor, or BHC Everett can be made by calling TRICARE at 1-800-404-4506 and appointments for BHC Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at 360-476-7058. Referrals are not needed to make an appointment. Clinic hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.