Article Date: 1/1/2004

New Views for a New Year
Two recent graduates explain why they travel different paths in optometry.

A recent graduate explained to me why he chose corporate optometry over private practice. "Private practice seems too difficult today," he said. "Corporate optometry is simple -- I get paid without all of the hassles."

The challenge

On one level, he's absolutely right. Private practice is difficult. Just consider the roles that the private practice optometrist must fill and the challenges that accompany them:

Expert clinician. Optometry school opens the door to a profession that requires continuous education as new diagnostic tools, medications, lenses, procedures and equipment are introduced regularly.

Human resources director. Here are some issues that aren't for the feint of heart: hiring, motivating, compensating and disciplining.

Marketing guru. You need a plan to answer the critical questions: How do you attract and maintain patients? What type of advertising works best? What's the most effective method of recalling patients? What services should I promote?

IT whiz. All practices are moving closer to the paperless office as electronic medical records and practice management software become standards. And if you incorporated both into your practice at different times, then it's time to integrate them into one information system.

Logistics manager. All the shipping, receiving and inventory issues can confound. And when shipments don't arrive on time, you find yourself knee deep in the following role.

Patient satisfaction director. Knowing how to keep the patient satisfied after the office visit is the stuff that M.B.A. programs teach.

Real estate investor. Finding for the right location, purchase or rent decisions will affect each practice differently.

Purchasing manager. What requirements will you put in place to justify acquiring new equipment?

Chief financial officer. You didn't get into optometry purely for the money. But if the cash doesn't flow, where will you be?

Chief executive officer. That's right, every responsibility, whether delegated or not, ultimately falls on your shoulders. Have a good day.

The upside

I spoke to another graduate who chose private practice. He agreed that he works longer hours, has more headaches and earns less, at least for now. "But that's just half of the story," he said. "Without accepting the headaches and hours, I wouldn't have the opportunity to create the practice of my dreams."


Optometric Management, Issue: January 2004