Wherever you practice, continuing education is a part of maintaining your license. Although some states are more specific about what type of education, how many hours, and over what time period, there is more to be gained than simple expansion of your knowledge. The way I look at it, if I’m paying to sit through a class, I’m not only going to glean the education, but I’m looking at how this can be applied at my office for the betterment of patient care, as well as my bottom line. This also applies to my staff getting education.
Of course, you say! Now, I know that we all have good intentions, but when it comes to “after the meeting,” the trend sometimes leans towards keeping the same-old status quo. After all, change is hard on staff, can be uncomfortable for patients, and most obviously, requires you to possibly do some changing as well. The approach I take is the whole “How do you eat an elephant?” mantra. One bite at a time. Here are my bites:
Pick one main idea. There are some lectures that are literally a wealth of information and full of new practice “bits” you could apply. The more-is-more approach, though, is the best way to make sure none of the “bits” get implemented. Pick one idea, one new practice, that you think is top priority. (You can save the rest for later, but just pick one for now).
Small steps. I don’t get overly involved in writing out a plan, but in my head, I think of the couple of small steps I can take to get to the larger, one, main goal. Then, I start working. I was inspired by a podcast I heard that talked about our daunting list of “things to do” that we have a hard time whittling down. That list then discourages us because it doesn’t seem to get smaller. The idea here was this: What if you only got 1-3 key tasks accomplished per day? But this is 1-3 key tasks EVERY day. That adds up to a lot over the course of the year.
Accomplish. Watch, measure, grow. This is it. I keep this process simple to make it successful.
How does this apply to staff education? What I’ve come to realize, as I talk to my staff and other practices’ staff, is that this group can sometimes be more easily persuaded than us docs. But I’ve found these tips help my staff get the most out of educational meetings or dinners, or even webinars, they attend:
Preparation. Ready them for what to expect. Tell them that a sponsored dinner, e.g., has an agenda in most cases, but that agenda can be accompanied by some great practice tips and education for their betterment. They just need to be able to weed through what is what.
Engage critical thinking. Vendors are working with us to make money in most cases. Bottom line (pun intended), think about if what they are saying is in the practice’s best interests, or the vendor’s best interests.
Report back what you’ve learned. My staff has to write down key takeaways from their meetings/dinners. This is in part to know they’ve paid attention, in part to know how our practice will benefit, and in part to ensure they have engaged their critical thinking I just mentioned. Then, they need to report how this could cost/benefit the practice.
I know it may seem difficult to parlay how a glaucoma lecture will lead to implementation of practices that will help the bottom line. But, in this example, better care for your patients can lead to referrals and growth. Billing can increase. And I’m always a fan of increasing private pay revenues. Lectures can serve as an opportunity to grow, and not stagnate, even if they are mandatory (and especially since they are so). Engage and apply to make the most of educational opportunities.
Gina M. Wesley OD, MS, FAAO owns and practices at Complete Eye Care in Medina, MN. Accolades include Minnesota's Young Optometrist of the Year in 2011 and the Early Professional Achievement Award from The Ohio State University College of Optometry in 2013. She is a member of the American Optometric Association, a fellow in the American Academy of Optometry and enjoys practicing, writing and lecturing in the industry. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.