Adding an Associate OD, Part 2: Recruitment and Preparation
August 13, 2014
Last week, I wrote about the wonderful opportunity that exists for your practice when you can bring on an associate optometrist. In this article, I’ll cover additional details that will help you make your group practice a big success.
How to find associate doctor candidates
As with any employment position, when you want to recruit a doctor for your practice you need to get the word out. Start by writing a position available ad that can be posted in several media outlets. I would describe the job available including the name and location of the practice, the type of practice and specialties, full time or part time and who to contact and how to send the curriculum vitae (resume). Try to sell the position by describing some of the desirable things about the city or region and the practice. If you are located in an area that has difficulty attracting a doctor, plan to pay a higher salary and indicate that in your ad.
There are many resources available to list your position available. I would use them all:
All the schools of optometry have a placement service and they have graduates from all over the country. I would send your employment ad to all the schools.
The AOA placement service is Optometry’s Career Center, which is now part of the ExcelOD.com website.
All the state optometric associations have a newsletter or magazine to communicate with members and they accept job position available ads. State associations are especially good because the readers are fairly local to your practice.
There are many online job search websites, such as Craig’s List and even optical-specific services like LocalEyeSite.com.
Consider attending any “meet the students” events that may be hosted by professional organizations and schools of optometry.
Use your network of colleagues and business associates. Let other ODs know you are looking and ask them to refer anyone who may be interested. Perhaps you know a doctor who is doing fill-in work and might like a steady position; if so, call him or her. Ask your sales reps if they know any ODs looking for a new job opportunity.
Is there a buy-in opportunity?
Decide well in advance if you are looking for a future partner or an employed doctor. It is important that you not mislead a candidate by agreeing to consider partner of the practice in the near future if you are not truly ready for that step. Even an offhand comment that you are open to the idea of someone buying in can be construed as a promise. Don’t let the excitement of a good prospect make you say things that are not true. A good response to the question might be: “At this time, I’m only offering an employment position.” There are plenty of excellent doctors out there who do not want to own a practice. Many optometry graduates just want to be good clinicians and do not want the risk and headaches of ownership. A good, private practice of optometry is very appealing as a career option.
How to prepare for another doctor
When your practice is ready for an associate OD, you have an opportunity to change some aspects of your practice for the future. It is far better to state the things you want during the interview process and when you make an offer than to come to your associate some time later and try to make a change. Your negotiating strength is when you are making the offer. The policies and procedures in place when the new doctor starts becomes the agreed upon norm, even if they are not written down. So set your policies the way you want them to be before you start the relationship.
Even though you will have great respect for your associate and treat him or her very well, don’t be a pushover and give in on everything. Stand firm on the factors that are important to your practice.
Office hours. Bringing in an associate is often the best time to expand your office hours and offer some evenings until at least 7pm and every Saturday. Yes, you will have to arrange staff coverage for the expanded hours, but that is not so hard. Offering convenient hours is a huge practice builder.
Lunch breaks. Set the rules in advance. The new doctor is an employee not a partner.
The appointment template. Even though you won’t be able to completely fill the associate’s schedule right away, the new doc should know what the appointment schedule will be and should agree that she can handle the very busy flow. Some doctors can’t or won’t see three patients per hour and you should know that and decide if it is a deal-breaker.
Emergencies during office hours. I think the new doctor should see all emergencies. Is he ready and willing to do that?
After hours on call. How will you handle phone calls after hours and emergencies? Will you share that responsibility? I don’t think any doctor should meet a patient at the office alone after hours; we don’t get paid enough for that for one thing. But we should take the phone call and give advice over the phone.
Next week, I’ll present Part 3 in this series, which will focus on transferring patients from the senior doctor to the associate doctor plus some other useful tips.
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.