Article Date: 12/1/2003

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Overlooking the Obvious?
When you train new staffers, do you forget to teach them the basics?
By Gary Gerber, O.D.

"I'm sorry, you'll have to see an eye doctor to have that taken care of. We just sell glasses." No, I didn't overhear this at an optical shop run by an optician. It was in a private optometrist's office (the owner was a young residency- trained, medically oriented doctor).

I later found out that the receptionist who took the above call was responding to a patient who asked if the doctor could take a piece of metal out of his eye. Newly hired and with little training, the receptionist gave the above reply. Interestingly, what happened in this office often happens in many -- we train our staff in policies and procedures but forget to educate them on the most basic facts of our business and industry.

For this reason, I have recommended that my clients adopt a few unconventional training policies for both their rookie and veteran employees.

Work with a clean slate

A typical first day of training in most practices involves having the new hire follow around a veteran employee. While this isn't necessarily the wrong thing to do, it rarely helps to take advantage of the "clean slate" most new employees bring to a business. A new employee's first day is the best time to indoctrinate her about your way of doing business. That's why I recommend to my clients that their new employees shadow them. Let them see your philosophy of eye care in action with your patients. Observing your level of care, skill and concern will educate your employees more thoroughly than any document possibly could.


ILLUSTRATION BY PETER BONO

Let them know who you are

Where did you go to optometry school? How did you start your practice? Did you buy it from another doctor or open cold? Were you always in the same location? You should record these and other historical points of interest and have all of your employees (both old and new) read them.

Additionally, give a firm and accurate definition of exactly what optometry is -- as defined by you. Make sure your staff is perfectly clear about the entire spectrum of services and products you provide.

Test your staffers' knowledge

While many of us survey our patients, few of us survey or quiz our staff. And given the continually changing scope of care that we practice, it's a necessary task. For example, after attending a continuing education class, you might want to start recommending silicone hydrogel contact lenses for continuous wear. But your veteran staffer, who's heard you tell patients to never sleep in their lenses, might not share your enthusiasm. After training your staff about new procedures and technologies, quiz them at regularly prescribed intervals. Catalog these quizzes and use them to train new employees.

Work your way up

Make sure all of your employees (especially the new ones) know the most basic demographics of your practice. I've visited offices where it took five minutes of searching for a receptionist to find the office's fax number. Make e-mail addresses, Web site addresses, office hours and other "obvious" items readily available to all employees and include it in new employee training.

Sometimes it's hard to view your business from an unemotional and analytical standpoint, but if you want to get your staff absolutely current and uniform in their training, it's best to take this approach. Just start with the basics and go from there. So doctor, what's your fax number?

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable.  Learn more at www.powerpractice.com or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.

 


Optometric Management, Issue: December 2003