This is a continuation of Dr. Won’s FIRST article –Insights From Dr. Won
So what exactly do I do? I’m an O.D. that works for another O.D. that leases her office within a large optical chain (Lenscrafters in our case). It is a long-established office that has been at the location for 27 years. Neither of us is employed by Lenscrafters any more than a tenant is employed by any other landlord. Even as a tenant living within an apartment building, you are bound to certain regulations of the building and landlord. In the case of our office, we are bound to use certain forms and systems (for instance, an online appointment book). There are lots of “small” things that are out of our control, but looking at the bigger picture, there is an enormous amount to gain from such a relationship. There are obvious benefits such as sharing clientele, which is good for both of our businesses. The optical does gain the benefit of having doctors on staff 7 days a week. As a part of our lease, we also benefit by being leased most of our equipment, such as phoropters, chairs, furniture, and machines (NCT, Autorefractor/AutoK, Retinal Camera, HVF, and in some instances, also a Zeiss FDT). Maintenance of this equipment is also part of the lease, so we have a “repair guy” who periodically fixes anything that needs fixing. This is quite a luxury you probably can’t appreciate at this stage in the game if you’re a student. However, it can also prove to be an enormous pain, as getting a hold of your repair guy and having things actually GET fixed can be difficult, but I digress.
For the purposes of this article, my job would best be summarized as “Private Group Practitioner within an Optical Chain”. Since I am employed by another optometrist and not the optical, my responsibilities are entirely practice oriented with little to no optical aspect of practicing Optometry involved. For those of you who are just barely scraping by in your Dispensing courses in school this might be an ideal setup for you. We do refractions, of course, but we also practice full scope Optometry with pretty much everything ranging from basic refractions to co-management of surgical patients and anything in between. Because I have practically no optical responsibilities, I feel that I can really focus on medical patient treatment. This is not to say that patient treatment stops once the patient walks over to the optical half of the store. Of course, an optical provides treatment and care much as a pharmacy provides care for patients in a different way. I do the occasional Rx check and fix certain optical problems, but my optical responsibilities pretty much end there. Beyond a prescription and lens recommendations, I don’t have to fit or sell spectacles, there is separate staff from the optical that will do this for me. I simply have to walk my patient over and introduce the patient to the optician in what we refer to as a “transition”. Yes, that’s right: I shirk all optical responsibility so that I can just concentrate on examinations. Besides, I never liked dispensing spectacles anyway.
So where does this leave the business in terms of income? We operate and earn our profit on examinations and contact lens sales alone. With the only real overhead being office supplies, rent, and staff, it has turned out to be quite lucrative. We do, of course, sacrifice the potential optical profits, but this is the professional lifestyle we’ve chosen for ourselves, and for me, it works. Obviously, this has been a fantastic relationship between the practice and the optical chain for 27 years. We are also one of the highest grossing offices in the New York area with one of the highest volume of patients and optical clientele. Perhaps it’s arrogance, but I would attribute much of it to the successful relationship between office and optical since most of the other locations in the area have employed O.D.’s and not lease holders. With each side working both independently and together toward a common goal of patient retention, I believe the results speak for themselves.
I’d like to take a sharp turn here now and discuss another extremely important aspect of my job, which is actually my life outside of my job. This does require that I explain how our office is run, which is clearly an important matter to discuss anyway. There are three doctors who are on our staff here, as well as an intern from SUNY who is working as a tech/intern who we have the privilege of joining us 1 day per week this summer. We are a variation on a group practice so we each split up the days. Based on the way that we have scheduled ourselves, two of us work for 4 days per week of 10 hours each day to make up a full-time 40 hours per week. Our boss (we’ll call her “Dr. Jones” for lack of a better name) works only half-days about 4 days per week as well, though this is only her patient schedule. What this means for me is that I have three days per week off, I still get the benefits of working full time, and I have plenty of time to spend with my family. For me this was an extremely important draw to the job. Now, this is not true of all practices in this modality, but may be true of other modalities as well. I do think that the nature of our practice does make this kind of lifestyle very possible though, as with any other type of group practice. This is certainly something additional to keep in mind as you’re choosing a “way to work”. As a younger member of a group practice, there is also the potential for future ownership as well that is promising. This, however, is an entirely different matter all together.
I hope that this has been informative to the readership here at OptometryStudents.com and I hope that it will lead some of you to a job that is professionally fulfilling. Please keep in mind that each physicians’ experiences are unique and not all practices function the way that ours does. The basic bare-bones of the operations, however are usually quite similar. Please contact me or start a discussion on this page if there are any questions. Remember: Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal. My experiences may not necessarily become yours. I wish you all good luck and hope to see you at some actual CE one day!
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