The top 10 things I’d tell new optometry graduates after 10 years of practice

Ten years ago this May I graduated from the University of Houston College of Optometry.  We had to wait two months to get our license to practice.  It was during that two month break that I took a cruise with my wife to Bermuda (my first cruise and her third).

I’ve always believed that I learned more in my first six months of practicing in the real world than I did in four years of optometry school.  And it was on that cruise that I realized how I wanted my practice to run (though I didn’t know it at the time).

So let’s see if I can come up with 10 pearls of wisdom for new graduates…

1.  Develop guidelines, not policies.  Be flexible.  It’s really not that difficult to make most patients happy.  Some may have unusual requests, but if you can make them happy they won’t even think about going to see anyone else.

2.  I wish someone would have stood up at our graduation, maybe with a bull horn, and told us to pay down our student loan debt as quickly as possible…before buying that first house and that shiny new car.  Even though I listed this as #2, it’s the first bit of advice I give to any new grad.  It’s advice that I regret never receiving.

3.  No matter how young you look coming out of school, it’s easy to look like you know what you’re doing.  Look every patient in the eye, early and often.  And give them a firm hand shake.  They want to see your confidence right away so that they can relax and pay attention to you.

4.  Show appreciation to your staff.  I’ve never been as good at this one as I’d like to be, but it’s very important.  But I’m working on it, despite what they may think!

5.  Don’t expect everyone you work with to be a clone of yourself.  It took me years to get over this one.

6.  One of things I learned on my very first cruise is that you can run your business like everyone else and be like everyone else, or you can  run it differently and be that much better.  During our dinner services onboard the cruise, I couldn’t believe someone was coming up to our table with a special little instrument to wipe the crumbs off my table.  It reminds me often of this pearl #6.  I don’t expect the crumb sweep as part of an average meal anywhere else, but it sets you apart if you do it.

7.  Read a book or two on customer service.  Don’t expect any real success unless you figure out the importance of it, because you will not learn it in school.  Any fresh graduate can do a refraction and get a glasses prescription right most of the time, it’s the rest of the experience in your office that counts.

8.  Get involved in the community.  I didn’t learn this one right away.

9.  Don’t just hire people with experience.  Hire nice, intelligent people and teach them what you want them to do.  Some of the worst people I ever hired had terrible habits that they had developed from years of “experience”.

10.  Never stop learning something new.  A lot of us left school with a good understanding of the eye, but not always the greatest understanding of vision.  They are two separate concepts.  And if you don’t know them both, you may have a lot of people leave your office with unsolved vision problems.  Been there.  Done that.

So there you go.  Ten years from now I will come up with 20 pearls of wisdom, hopefully.  Have a great week!

About admin

Eye/vision doctor in San Antonio. Serious sports fan. Goofy dad. Husband who tries hard. Never met a bag of beef jerky that I didn't like. Except salmon. San Antonio, TX ·
This entry was posted in Community, Practice Management, University of Houston College of Optometry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • Jean LaBelle

    Jason – what a great blog site. You have such good info about eye care that everyone will benefit from. As a former patient you impressed me my first appointment with your professional, caring patient contact. I knew I was in good hands as you thoroughly explained what was happening and gave me the opportunity to ask questions. You really do practice what you preach and are a true assest to the world of optometry. My only complaint is I’m in Kingwood (Texas) and your in Keene (NH) Boo-oooo. See you!!!!

  • Thank you, Jean, for reading and for the kind words! I hope we find a reason to get together again soon!

  • Daddy

    See, that management degree is really paying off.

  • Don E.

    Just curious. Why is paying down the student debt so important? In general, the student loans are pretty low interest loans. I know that it’s great to get out of debt ASAP to keep from paying insurance, but credit card, car loan interest rates are so much higher. I’m not trying to be a smart aleck just curious as to the reasoning. Thinking about it I guess many student who go straight from college to optometry school don’t have much debt outside the student loans and so in that case it makes sense. As a non-traditional student I had other debts to knock out first. So I guess in general it’s just good advice to pay the higher interest loans off first. And if student loans are all you have, knock them out fast.

    Great advice on customer service. There are always plenty of doctors to choose from when people are looking to get their vision checked. I have found that if you are nice, give great service, respect the patients time, and do your best to solve their vision problems, then you build patient loyalty…they want to come back, and they will send their family and friends to see you.

    Also good advice on hiring. The best staff I’ve had had no previous experience in an optometrist office. Things flow better when the staff is trained for a particular doctor’s style of practice. I’d also mention that a great office manager is hard to find. They are more precious than gold. Value them.

  • Don E.

    oops, meant “interest” not “insurace”.

    • Hey, Don. To me it’s just that my student loan debt will linger the longest and is the most “painful” check that I write each month. I’ve already made enough money in my career to have easily paid it off, but I chose to buy that new house and pay for however many cars I’ve owned up to this point. I would advise making it a priority to pay it down and then you can start keeping that money for yourself. Thanks for the comments.