In the wake of our pandemic (and whoever thought I would type those words?), I won’t go through the myriad of safety precautions, office protocols, policy changes, staffing challenges, and patient education/management you can possibly implement in your office. There are vast amounts of fantastic sources of information you can tap into. I will instead focus on how this has irrevocably changed my office and how we operate. The luxury of time and reflection has been thrust upon us these past many months, and here are my new pillars on which we will move forward:
Outbreak/disease/pandemic emergency plan. Yes, it’s been a bit of work to put something together that incorporates all the elements of safety and protection while also trying to deliver patient care. However, I now have a plan I can fall back on in the event that this situation, or anything like it, ever happens again. I’ve made it a plug-and-play, yet dynamic plan, which can be put into place fairly quickly. I suggest you not only document what you’ve done or plan on doing, but then make that document a living, breathing part of your office emergency planning.
Focusing on what’s essential. This situation has made us alter the ways in which we manage our patients. “Forced” into novel ways in which to bring the patient through the office, each step has been carefully analyzed, and has really made me ask, “Is that necessary?” or, “How can we make that easier/safer?” I really thought we were as paperless as we could be, but it turns out there was room for improvement with various electronic intake forms and uploads. Telemedicine has a place for us. Setting appropriate expectations of what our patients need to do before coming in for their appointments has saved time and energy for my staff. And really, when the patient is now in front of us, our care may be a bit more streamlined, but nonetheless is aiming towards excellence in eye care. Take a look at your flow, processes, and see what is absolutely necessary to deliver essential care, and put it in place now and for the future.
What’s REALLY important in regard to my time. I’m an admitted personal-development junkie, and am always searching for ways to increase my productivity without sacrificing quality, focusing on the things that matter most to me. This forced slow-down has allowed me more time with my family, and although I am happy to be back in patient care, stepping away from the office did help me re-analyze what I really want for my work life. I currently work part-time, but is that part-time work the best use of my time? Are there ways in which I can better spend it with the same or superior outcomes? Having more time to really “think” on these questions is something I would not have without the COVID pandemic, and I’m grateful. I’m still working it out, but the point is I’m working it. Because no one will optimize my time and energy for me but me.
It’s okay. Although it is inspiring to see and hear what everyone has done during their time off, I’m here to tell you that whatever you did, it’s okay. You didn’t remodel/repaint/redecorate your office? It’s okay. You didn’t plan on how you are going to implement your new specialty in your office? It’s okay. You didn’t embark on a 60-day exercise regimen to better your health? It’s okay. If all you did was survive and come out on the other side of this, it’s okay. The pressures of social media and news articles and “opportunities” that are now in our face are real. Take stock of what works for you, as we all thrive at different levels of action. We need to allow ourselves some grace.
I can’t wait to hear all the great strategies and outcomes of how our industry survived and thrived beyond this pandemic. But remember, whatever is going on for you right now, it’s okay.
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.