Training: Why It Needs To Be Ongoing

I’m Laura Miller, O.D. and low vision is my passion. I’m also a big believer in ongoing staff training.

I opened Northwest Hills Eye Care in Austin, TX 18 years ago, and we’ve grown from just two of us to four optometrists and 11 staff members.

Of the four ODs, two of us primarily do low vision, and the other two are more routine care.

As for staff, I have one FT and two PT front desk people, two opticians who primarily do the optical, an office manager, one person in the lab who makes the glasses, two FT and one PT technicians, and we recently hired an occupational therapist.

HIRING PHILOSOPHY

Having that many employees is a lot of work–trying to get the right ones for the job and trying to get ones that can work together.

I have a great office manager…he’s been with me since the beginning. Nonetheless, I personally interview all staff. I feel I have a good intuition, and from the questions I ask, I get a good sense about how they’re going to work and how they’re going to mesh with the other staff here.

As I tell everyone when I interview them, my philosophy is that we are a family here. We actually spend more awake time together than we do with our personal families. We need to do our jobs, get along, and be able to rely on each other when we need to.

CROSS TRAINING

I’ve always wanted for everybody to overlap and cross train at least a little. So, in our office we don’t just have department meetings—just for optical, for example. Instead, we all meet together. We sit down every Tuesday from 12:30 to 2 pm. It’s the only day we close for lunch and that’s so we can have that staff time.

STAFF MEETINGS

The fourth meeting of the month is totally geared toward training. Everybody is part of it so that everyone can understand what keratoconus is, for example. That might help someone who is scheduling, as well as someone making the glasses, and most definitely, the technicians. Some other weeks, we may have reps come in.

ONE-ON-ONE

If it’s just one person needing training, I’ll have my office manager work with them. When I have the time, I also pull someone aside when I feel there’s a teachable moment. If I can’t right then, I jot it down and ask to meet one on one with the person later.

OUTSIDE TRAINING

I encourage staff to attend some sort of educational events every year. I do usually take my optical department to one of the Vision Expos. And, luckily our TOA state meeting is usually here. It offers continuing education, so a lot of them will go to that.

Every year, I will cover the cost of one course to maintain each individual’s hours, whether it’s CPO, ABO or NCLE. I also encourage certification, so they can be CPO- and CPOA-certified. When they get their initial certification, I do recognize that and give them a raise. They’ve taken the time, and they should be rewarded for that financially.

I know some ODs take staff for granted and don’t train them. Unfortunately, that all trickles down to how they treat patients.

Treating both staff and patients properly…that is the key to good training and a strong culture within a practice.

Laura Miller, O.D.

Erinn Morgan