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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor September 6, 2006 - Tip #242 
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Staff Cross-training Is Easy

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Additional Information

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. I'm surprised that other doctors find that to be a novel approach; I've 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.

Staff Departments

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 - but they also work in other departments at times. I've provided some ideas for cross-training in each department.
  • 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 can't 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 it's 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.
Hiring and training

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,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

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Send questions and comments to neil@gailmard.com.

Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.

Please Note: The views expressed in Management Tip of the Week do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsor.

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