Optometric Management Tip # 320   -   Wednesday, March 19, 2008
In-Service Meetings for Staff

I'm on a quest to reduce optical remakes in my practice in order to save the unnecessary expense and to improve patient service. At the core of this mission is a series of staff training sessions. Here are the steps I took to plan and implement the program.

Identify topics

Who to teach

I assume there is someone in your practice who has very good skills in the targeted areas and if so, I would ask him if he would be willing to present an informal review session for his co-workers. If you have a few good people, I'd choose the one you think likes to teach and who has better communication skills. Since the program will cover many topics over several weeks, you can easily rotate the teaching duties among your staff. If you don't have a highly skilled optician on your staff, I think your first priority is to recruit and hire one.

There was once a time when the optometrist would be the de facto dispensing expert in the practice, and some still are. But it's been a long time since dispensing was truly mastered in either optometry school or practice. It's actually very desirable for optometrists to know optical dispensing even if the tasks are delegated, because it helps the OD to work with optical staff, supervise operations, solve problems and devise policies.

How to teach

I asked the instructors of the in-service sessions to keep the content very low key, informal, practical and interactive. Just tell the others how you do it. I also recommend that the instructors allow other staff to share their tips and skills and to keep the session interactive. Encourage questions.

We avoided the use of slides in favor of using actual frames, lenses and tools to demonstrate with. We literally did a show and tell.

I asked the instructor to prepare a simple handout on each topic with bullet lists of steps to take. Each employee received a handout to take notes on and save as a reference.

Practice

In addition to understanding a topic, each technician must practice the skill. We made lots of practice items available and told employees they should pair up with a co-worker during slow periods in the office and practice the measurements and adjustments. You may wish to require that each employee pass a proficiency test by a certain point in time.

Plan the logistics

Since I already hold weekly staff meetings, I simply hold the training sessions during that time. I always have the schedule blocked off with no patients on Monday morning, from 9 to 10am. The office is still open during that time and we take care of people who walk in for adjustments or other business and we answer the telephones. I usually meet with the staff in two shifts; the first with the business office and the second with opticians and technicians. Since these training sessions are geared toward the technical dispensing skills, most of the business office staff need not attend and they can handle the office needs for the whole hour.


Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management