How to Find the Right Fit

Investing time and thought into what you want from a practice will help ensure a successful match.

How to Find the Right Fit

Investing time and thought into what you want from a practice will help ensure a successful match.

By Ryan Parker, OD

images Dr. Ryan Parker is in solo private practice in Ardmore, Okla. and is also a professional relations consultant for Essilor of North America. He can be reached at

Once those long, difficult days of studying, graduating and passing boards are behind you, it’s time to find an amazing practice opportunity to make all that hard work pay off. All too often, the excitement of this next step leads many new optometrists to under-analyze this life-changing decision. Finding the right practice is a huge undertaking. I liken it to making the decision to marry or purchase your first house. Most of us invest a great deal of time and thought into choosing a soul mate, while the home-buying process entails visiting multiple properties, comparing pros and cons and so on. Why then, when taking a step as big as finding the right practice, don’t we spend the time to think about what’s important in a job?

Location, Location, Location

I recently attended the AOA meeting in San Diego and had the chance to lecture with my colleague and friend, Dr. Chad Fleming. During our student lecture, an attendee asked, “What’s one of the most important factors you considered when finding your practice?” Dr. Fleming gave a perfect response. “Practice where you want to live, don’t live where you have to practice,” he said. There are many practice opportunities out there, so pick one in a location where you’re excited to live. Your interactions with staff, fellow ODs and patients will be much more positive and you’ll be more likely to enjoy your job.

Planning to Ensure Practice Growth

To have a chance at success, ensure there’s a plan in place to build your patient base. There are many ways to funnel patients to you. The practice can allow you to see all new patients, start providing exams during times that aren’t currently available, or the senior doctor can reduce his current schedule. The plan must be written and shared with the entire office, to keep everyone on the same page.

Similarly, as you evaluate opportunities, consider the growth potential of each practice. When you enter a practice, you’re increasing the number of doctor days available, which sounds great, but there must be a demand to fill those additional days. Most senior doctors know that when they add a new OD, there may be a temporary decrease in personal income until the new practitioner develops his own patient base. This income decrease is normal and is an investment in the future of the practice. If the senior doctor isn’t planning to alter his schedule, there must be some growth potential in the practice so you can succeed. Again, it’s important discuss this blueprint for the future up front and ideally, put it to paper.

Don’t Be A Carbon Copy

You may be asking yourself, how can I ensure that there’s growth potential? One way to bring patients into the practice is to have a different skill set than the current ODs. Identify your strengths and use those assets to attract new patients. Maybe you have a talent with specialty contact lens fitting, pediatrics, glaucoma or vision therapy. Your skill may not even be related to patient care. You may have a talent for social media or public speaking. Look for an opportunity where you can meet a need that’s not currently being met to ensure that you help to grow the practice.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Lastly, make sure your personality meshes with the other doctors and staff in the practice. Most people would think this goes without saying, but I’m constantly amazed by the number of times I hear, “I love the practice, but I don’t get along with the doctor.” The number of hours you’ll spend working alongside your fellow OD may be more than the time you spend with your significant other. As such, it’s very important to have some “get to know you time” in your contract. This is a specific amount of time — maybe a few months or longer — that’s considered a trial period in which either party can choose to opt out if it’s not the right fit.

I know first hand that finding a practice can be a challenge. I had two opportunities that didn’t work out before finding the right fit. But with some careful thought and consideration, each of you can find your own dream practice. nOD