Article Date: 11/1/2006

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How Are Your Work Hours Totaling Up?

A recent poll suggests diversity in optometry, especially in hours worked.

FROM THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR Jim Thomas

Arecent Optometric Management "Quick Poll" shows that 50% of optometrists report working from 36 to 45 hours in a typical week. About 20% work 46 or more hours and the remaining 30% work 35 or fewer hours.

Before we go further, let me insert this disclaimer: The "Quick Poll" is a survey that resides on OM's Website (www.optometric.com), so any Web surfer can visit the site and participate in the poll. While the poll wouldn't hold up under the scrutiny of statisticians, I think the poll's 280 responses provide a valid snapshot of optometrist's work hours.

A new, diverse workforce

I didn't initially expect to see that 30% of the O.D.s work 35 or fewer hours per week. (Fifteen percent work 30 or fewer hours.) But in recent years, demographics in optometry have changed. The traditional two-parent, single "bread-winner" household has given way to flexible schedules and unique work arrangements that allow optometrists more time to raise a family and manage a household. This trend supports the survey's finding that a large percentage of optometrists work less than 40 hours a week.

When we consider flexible arrangements and factor in climbing student debt, we have to ask, how will private practice be impacted? A starting point can be found in the article, "Student Debt and Optometric Practice," which begins on page 85 of this issue.

Working overtime

According to the OM survey, 40% of optometrists work 41 or more hours per week, which breaks down to 41-45 hours (20%), 46-50 hours (9.5%) and more than 50 hours (10.5%).

There are a few reasons for long hours. It's not unusual to work for a second — or even a third — practice to pay student loans. Still, other O.D.s will work the extra hours to save for a private practice.

A third group of optometrists work beyond the average number of hours managing their practices. This is a positive situation for doctors exploiting new opportunities. However, when a doc works extra hours just to keep up, and realizes no additional benefits, it becomes a situation in dire need of a solution.

Here we can use your help. If you've ever faced a management situation where you were overworked and stressed, email me (thomasjj@ lwwvisioncare.com) and let me know the steps you took to break out. We'll publish your answers in an upcoming issue.



Optometric Management, Issue: November 2006