First Year In Practice– Choosing Your Ideal Optometric Setting

Part III of V
By Dr. Paul Heeg

Okay, you’re a third or fourth year optometry student and you see a ton of choices in front of you… you may ask: where to go from here? My advice would be not to get intimidated from all the choices, there certainly are quite a few!  Research each one and see where you see yourself in.  In the following discussion, I am going to briefly talk about the main choices that we may find ourselves pondering quite often.

First is residency! Well, if you have not heard that there are residencies available in optometry, you may not be in the right decade.  Yes, for over thirty years, optometry has been expanding our residency programs.  Why would you consider a residency?  Well, it’s becoming quite apparent that we are in a new age of eye care that has a rich and diverse knowledge bank that we can tap into.  Optometry school can only teach us so much in four years, there is so much more that we can learn and become proficient in.  Let that be Ocular disease, binocular vision, pediatrics, or contact lens. My advice to you is if you are considering a residency, research early and visit your potential site. Your application will be comprised of two major attributes, academic performance and personality. Personality may be the most important element to a residency position.  Personality will entail extracurricular activities and passion for your field.  You will have to click well with the staff you will be working with and without visiting a site, you may never know for sure.   It’s great for the doctors on staff to see an enthusiastic doctor, they will be fairly impressed.

With that said, residency is certainly not for everyone.  Do not feel you have to apply for a residency if you are in top of your class.  There are other just as many meaningful post graduation options for us.  I did not do a residency.  Do I regret it?  Not really, I feel as though my current situation is broadening my horizon and I am learning a lot being out on my own.

The second option we will discuss together is private practice which will include both group and sole practice.  Granted, group practice may be the most popular right now because of the reduction in cost for running the office between all the doctors and the higher volume per chair time is impressive, sole practice has its advantages is that you are the only doctor delivering care and you can practice exactly how you wish.  You will have to research this as you enter in your profession.  A private group practice is ultimately my goal, but working into a group practice will take money and time.  Plus, you will have to pretty sure that you will want to be in an area if you start investing into a practice.

The third option is corporate. This is where you work next to a retail giant like Lenscrafters.  Now, there are some financial advantages from the start to this set up, however long term, this may not be the most lucrative option.  Make sure you have an exit strategy if you plan on being in this setting but want to do private practice.   If you do corporate, make sure you are able to control the type of care you give.  Never allow another manager to dictate how you as a doctor will deliver care.  When done right, corporate has many advantages.  I am in a corporate setting right now.  It is a great stepping stone to where I want to be.

There is the research / academic route to optometry as well. Perhaps you would like to become your favorite professor at your soon to be alumni.  This is always a feasible option.  You would first have to complete a residency though.  A nice thing about academia is that you will have great benefits, good vacation time and eager bright eyed student eager to learn from you.  In retrospect, this is exciting for me to still think about, I love teaching.

In closing, there are a ton of career paths for you in optometry.  This article only touches upon the tip of the iceberg.  Feel free to contact me about any of the ideas mentioned in this article.

Next week’s topic: How will I stand out from other graduating ODs?
Dr. Paul Heeg

Scroll to Top