Article Date: 3/1/2006

Street Smarts
Disengage Your Autopilot

Confusing complacency for comfort can dull your edges.


THE GOAL OF ANY PROFESSIONAL is to become completely relaxed and comfortable in any work-related situation. Solving problems confidently and without anxiety is the basis for success. We must solve our patients' problems while they're sitting there staring back at us. Unlike some other professions, we can't just leave the office and catch up the next day.

Many optometrists seem to reach a comfort zone around their fifth year. Once you reach this zone, however, it can become all too easy to sit back and put your skills on autopilot. While it's a great feeling to be comfortable enough to treat patients with minimal stress, this attitude can frequently lead to complacency. Want to avoid getting stuck in a professional rut? Try this.

Buy New Equipment

There is nothing better for jumpstarting a doctor and a practice more than a new instrument. Adding a new digital camera or incorporating an optical coherence tomographer will make seeing patients more interesting. It also will raise your level of patient care and increase revenue.

If such major purchases are beyond your means, take a look at other, less costly instruments. You can get a pachymeter for just a few thousand dollars and anterior segment photography systems for even less. Release your inner techie to get your juices flowing again.

Dust Off Dormant Skills

We all remember doing gonioscopy and dilation/irrigation in optometry school. Yet, many O.D.s simply stop performing these tests in the real world. The phrase: "I'm not really comfortable doing that" is an excuse, and that's the crux of the problem. Performing only the procedures we do all the time does nothing to increase our competence as doctors. Doing new tasks will keep your examination toolkit and your practice up-to-date.

Be a Technician For a Day

Remember when we were all just techs? Our job was to gather the data to present to our preceptor. In today's practices, with so many parts of an exam
delegated to technicians, some docs have nearly forgotten how to gather information. When we bring in new technology, such as a digital retinal camera, the sales people usually teach the techs, not necessarily the doctor, how to use it. I say, you paid for it, now learn to use it.

Learning the nuts and bolts of new instruments can actually improve patient flow. For example, if the technicians are busy with other patients, you won't have to wait to get retina photos or corneal topography readings because you don't know how to use your own instruments. Taking the time to become competent in all the jobs your technicians do is a good way to stay fresh.

Keep Moving Forward

Getting to the point in our professional lives where we can face all our patients with confidence is obviously our goal. Getting too comfortable, however, means we're not pushing ourselves.

Don't be afraid to try something new or revisit a long-forgotten technique. The extra stress, which can be unpleasant, will ultimately make you a better doctor. Now go dig up that three-mirror lens you haven't seen for a year.

Never a victim of complacency and a '93 graduate of PCO, Dr. Beck practices in Leland, N.C.


Optometric Management, Issue: March 2006