Optometrists in Wyoming netted a big win earlier this month, when on April 2, Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law HB 39, which will expand ODs scope of practice to permit YAG laser capsulotomy, selective laser trabeculoplasty, laser iridotomy and lesion removal. The new privileges will also allow Wyoming ODs to have greater prescribing rights and granting board authority.

Wyoming’s new law dovetails into similar legislation that was recently passed in Mississippi, and the dual scope of practice expansions marks the first time in optometry’s history that two states in the same year approved laws that will significantly extend ODs authority for advanced procedures, a report by the American Optometric Association notes.1 

Wyoming’s expanded privileges were in part due to optometry’s demonstrated proficiency in safely delivering these procedures, which the profession is educated and trained to provide, and with widespread accessibility in a state that is made up of many rural pockets, so much so that half of Wyoming residents live in frontier areas where health care access issues remain unaddressed.1

WOA’s Behind-the-Scenes Efforts Critical

Optometrists practice in 22 out of 23 counties in the state, and the Wyoming Optometric Association (WOA) used this as one example in their lobbying efforts, since their advocates argued scope expansion would allow patients to have more primary eye health care service options in their communities.1

The argument gained even more credibility during the pandemic, when the WOA cited optometry’s essential role in treating urgent ocular cases that relieved overburdened hospitals and ERs.1

Wyoming’s last significant scope of expansion law was signed in 1995, so the WOA rolled up its sleeves and strengthened outreach with its state legislators, including work on telehealth and patient safety issues.

 The law "updates the scope of practice for the first time in 25 years and brings it in line with current education and training ODs are now receiving," says Kari Cline, executive director of the WOA. "In a rural state where 98% of primary eye care is provided by Wyoming doctors of optometry, the ability to provide up-to-date procedures in office for patients was paramount," she explains. "Patients will now have access to these primary eye health care in their own communities with the doctor they know and trust."

In 2018, the WOA introduced its scope bill into the Labor, Health and Social Services committee and also coordinated with Northeastern State University College of Optometry to schedule laser and procedures courses to show legislators optometry’s level of education and training.1 Many doctors used that opportunity to complete the program, and the WOA and its lobbying team took a YAG laser “roadshow” statewide to further demonstrate ODs abilities in this area, the AOA story explains.

"At each stop,  local WOA members would host an event attended by their legislators and guests where they would educate on the bill and demonstrate," going so far as to encourage legislators to try using laser themselves, Ms. Cline explains. "The combined effort of our doctors educating the legislators who attended on the issue and the legislators getting to see and use the laser made the opposition's assertions that this was beyond the education and ability of an optometrist fall very flat."

1. History Made: Wyoming Expands Scope to include contemporary laser, excision procedures. American Optometric Association. https://www.aoa.org/news/advocacy/state-advocacy/wyoming-expands-scope-to-include-contemporary-laser-excision-procedures?sso=y. Accessed April 16, 2021