Optometric Management Tip # 242 - Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Staff Cross-training Is Easy
As a consultant, I spend a lot of time talking to optometrists about the details of how they operate
their offices. As a practicing OD, this allows me to constantly evaluate the methods and systems I
use in my own practice. One of the major differences I notice between my system and that of most ODs
is that all my clinical technicians also serve as opticians. Iím surprised that other doctors find
that to be a novel approach; Iíve simply always done it that way and it seems like no big deal. This
cross-training certainly has some big advantages when it comes to staff scheduling and providing
excellent patient service.
Most practices are organized by department to some extent, based on the function of the job duties.
This is logical since employees can be better trained if they specialize and it limits the
responsibility for certain tasks to fewer people. My practice is divided into departments as shown
below. Employees are generally based in one department where they do most of their work Ė but they
also work in other departments at times. Iíve provided some ideas for cross-training in each
Hiring and training
- Business Office. These are receptionists and insurance coordinators, and they are
specially trained in patient relations and customer service. They answer phones, schedule
appointments, and handle all financial transactions and all administrative aspects of the office
computer system. A few of the receptionists can do a simple dispensing of a pair of glasses if our
technicians canít keep up with demand during a rush.
- Patient Care. These are clinical technicians who perform pretesting before the doctor
sees the patient and conduct special diagnostic testing as directed. All technicians also work in
optical dispensing and contact lenses. These clinical techs do frame selection, eyeglass delivery,
adjustments and repairs. Generally, a single technician will work with a patient from the initial
call-in from the waiting area, through the entire eye exam, frame selection and fee write-up, until
finally saying goodbye at checkout. This turns out to be a nice approach because the patient is
never left alone and a strong relationship is formed.
- Optical dispensing. As stated, most of the staff working in optical are technicians who
also work in the clinic, but we also employ two full time opticians who are always stationed in
optical and do not work in the clinic at all. These staff members do frame selection, delivery,
adjustments and repairs.
- Optical lab. We employ lab technicians who perform lens surfacing and finishing in our
office on a full time basis. These technicians can dispense eyeglasses when needed due to a
temporary staff shortage. We make dispensing a rare duty because itís inefficient to frequently
interrupt lab work.
- Office Manager. This employee does not belong to any single department but supervises
and manages all areas of the practice.
My practice hires many employees for the clinical technician position. When we advertise and
interview that job description, we require prior eye care experience. Invariably, we receive
applications from people who have experience and training in either clinical eye care or optical
dispensing. On rare occasion, a candidate will have experience in both areas, but not often.
We then look to identify the best candidate as one who is bright, friendly, articulate, and has all
the usual qualities of a good employee. That person is hired and enters our in-office training
program. While all job duties and instruments are covered, we often have to train especially for
the missing skill, either optical or clinical. Training is accomplished through shadowing a senior
technician, then roles are reversed and the senior tech observes the newcomer.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management