Optometric Management Tip # 79 - Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Do you have girls working for you?
Did you ever notice how many doctors refer to their staff members as girls? Or the more colloquial "gals"? It's pretty common. And it's not only a practice of males. I've heard plenty of female docs say something like... "see the girl at the front desk" or "the girl will dispense your eyeglasses in just a minute". While I know this term is not meant to be condescending, it actually is often perceived that way.
I banned the term long ago in my practice - I never say "girl" and we instruct other doctors and staff members to avoid it also. It is far better to refer to people by their actual names - or if a general term is needed, I use the job title, like "see the receptionist" or "the optician will be right with you". If I were a patient, I'd much rather have my pre-testing performed by an optometric technician than a girl.
There are several benefits when you avoid the term "girl"...
At best, calling an assistant "the girl" is a missed opportunity to educate patients about the quality of your staff. At worst, it's perceived as an outdated, sexist insult. In any case, we are better off breaking the habit.
- It impresses patients that you have well-trained eye care professionals working in the practice - rather than uneducated juveniles.
- It fosters patient acceptance of staff-delegated procedures.
- It allows patients to build a relationship with staff members when they hear their names and titles.
- It presents your practice as a system, making each aspect less dependent on the doctor. This is a big advantage when the doctor wants to delegate more, bring in an associate or sell the practice.
- It is a sign of respect for individual employees, which builds job satisfaction and better attitudes.
- It instills confidence in staff members when they hear their job title used by the doctor.
Imagine how I would feel if my technician finished all the pre-testing on my next patient and, after seating him in my exam chair, she left the room by saying "the boy will be right with you".
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management