Optometric Management Tip # 5   -   Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Taking Staff Training to Another Level

I always thought we did a pretty good job with staff training. We certainly have had plenty of practice over the years – thanks to employee turnover! We almost always seek and hire experienced job candidates. Yet, these employees still need to be trained in our procedures and instrumentation. We assign a senior staff member to mentor and train the new person over about a 2-week period – on everything from performing tests and record keeping to fee schedules and patient service issues.

We have weekly staff meetings, which are scheduled during normal business hours with a full hour block out of all patient appointments. We do some “training” at these meetings, but mostly it is dedicated to administrative issues or management problems that have arisen in the prior week. We also pay for staff to attend continuing education seminars at regional or state conferences.

Sounds pretty good – but I started thinking it still could be better. I take great pride in our quality of service, and I know that the skill of our staff is the key to that. I know we have some staff who are not experts at all phases of frame adjustment and repair, some cannot verify RGP base curves on the radiuscope, some do not know all the medical terms we use, some do not know how to demonstrate simple low vision aids… I could go on… and on.

I wanted to do more with staff training, but where would I find the time? I remembered that I don’t have to do everything myself, and I appointed one of our most experienced technicians to the new position of Director of Staff Education. She was given some administrative time to develop and coordinate a special one-hour training class every week. We block out this time each week from patients, and the office manager identifies which employees should attend each meeting, based on the topic that is scheduled. Generally, only a few staffers remain at the front desk and in optical to take care of phone calls and walk-ins.

The education director presents some of the training meetings herself, but also calls upon the other numerous experts we have on our staff in various areas. They make handouts, which go in special notebooks that were given to each staff member. The presenter uses overhead transparencies, models, discontinued frames, or whatever they need to teach. We make sure we leave plenty of time for hands-on work and for questions and interaction. One of our associate optometrists works with the education director to provide advice as needed.

This can work in any size office. It’s certainly working great in ours. Our staff knows how important training and quality is to our practice, and they like the break from routine work. The tech who was appointed as education director felt like her skills were recognized. The staff who are asked to give a presentation feel important. But most of all, our staff is providing better patient care.
Best wishes for continued success,

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