Part I: Where and How Will You Practice Optometry? Four ODs Talk About the Settings They’re Currently In

Posted by Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry

Apr 14, 2016 1:49:36 PM

One of the many appealing elements of a career in optometry is the variety of settings in which doctors of optometry can work. We asked ODs from several different practice types to answer some questions to give you a glimpse into the possibilities. Part I of this blog will cover the following settings: academic practice, solo private practice, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and corporate. Other practice settings will be covered in Part II.   

ACADEMIC PRACTICE

Valerie Kattouf, OD, FAAO

(Illinois College of Optometry, class of 1995)

Associate Professor and Chief of the Pediatrics and Binocular Vision Service at Illinois College of Optometry and Clinical Instructor at the University of Chicago

What does your practice setting have in common with other practice settings?

We are very high volume and, just like most practices, we serve patients of all ages. We see routine refractive errors, fit contact lenses, and treat infants, toddlers, school age children, and adults with a range of visual needs. I see a number of adult patients with double vision issues because our practice encompasses binocular vision care.

In what ways does your practice setting differ from others?

The majority of our patient encounters are complex, involving issues such as complex refractive error, Dr. Valerie Kattoufpathology, systemic syndromes, amblyopia and strabismus, so we perform less routine care. Also, our patient population is primarily Medicaid. We do accept private insurance plans, but the majority of our population is underserved. We also work with students, teaching while administering patient care, which is a different way of approaching things.

How is the bulk of your average work day spent?

This is a difficult question to answer for the academic setting because of the variety of roles we have. Some days are primarily clinic, while some days are spent working on administrative issues. I spend a good deal of time preparing lectures for classroom teaching as well as giving continuing education courses around the country. It is this constant variety that makes my career challenging and exciting.

What other tasks/roles are included in your work day?

Administrative tasks, continuing education and seminar lecture preparation, classroom teaching, clinical teaching, research activity, medical record completion, and student clinical evaluations.

What do you consider the biggest challenge of working in this setting?

The patient volume, complex care in clinic, and juggling the other responsibilities. Sometimes the days feel too short.

What do you consider most rewarding about working in this setting?

Helping patients who may not always be able to help themselves. I also enjoy when graduates let me know that I helped them to feel more confident in their abilities, which is always my goal when teaching.

How does having children in the patient mix differ from seeing all adults?

There’s never a dull moment. Pediatric care is fun, but you have to be adaptable and willing to vary from the norm. It’s a true honor to be able to guide parents to the proper treatments for their children and help them to understand the impact of the treatments on all aspects of the child’s life.

What is your work schedule?

I work five days per week, Monday through Friday. My hours vary. I suppose my on-campus hours are 40 per week. I do bring a great deal of work home to do at night, particularly things that I don’t want to dominate my time on campus, such as completing lectures, student evaluations, and medical records.

What advice would you give about choosing a practice setting?

If you can never feel like you have a job, but instead that you’re investing in your career, you’ll never feel like you’re working. My workplace environment is an extension of my family. I love being there, I adore my colleagues, and I feel honored to see patients and teach students daily. Find an environment that inspires and challenges you daily where you feel warmth and purpose.

SOLO PRIVATE PRACTICE

David Hite, OD

(Southern College of Optometry, class of 2013)

Owner of North Range Eye Care in Commerce City, Colo.

What does your practice setting have in common with other practice settings?

Routine patient care is virtually the same wherever you practice. The difference may be in who makes decisions about office flow and how much time you spend with patients.

Dr. David Hite with his wife and two children, Dawson (between mom and dad) and TeaganIn what ways does your practice setting differ from others?

I started the practice cold, and in less than three years we have all the technology we need to manage the full eyecare spectrum. As a private practice owner, I have full control of my schedule, how I see patients, and the overall patient experience.

How is the bulk of your average work day spent?

Patient care takes up the majority of my time in the office.

What other tasks/roles are included in your work day?

As the owner of a private practice, patient care is not all I do. In addition to patient care, I take care of overseeing the various departments of the practice, doing payroll and accounting, and taking care of small office maintenance items as well. My wife works in the office, too, and our first child, Dawson, came to work with us every day until he was a year and a half old.

What do you consider most rewarding about working in this setting?

There is a different feeling in seeing patients when you are the owner. You care more about their experience and their final outcome. There is more reward when they have a good experience. Having patients refer family or friends becomes a very personal recommendation for you.

What is your work schedule?

We see patients five days a week, but two days a week we don’t see patients in the mornings. That time is either my time off or time to work on administrative tasks. We don’t work weekends or late hours.

What advice would you give about choosing a practice setting?

Wherever you work, you’ll be building someone’s dream. That could be the owner of a private practice if you are an employee, a corporation, or your own personal practice. If you’re working hard, make sure you’re the one benefiting in the end.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

Laura Dowd, OD, FAAO

(New England College of Optometry, class of 2009)

Staff Optometrist and Optometry Student Program Coordinator in the VA Maine health system

What does your practice setting have in common with other practice settings?

We see patients with a wide variety of eye conditions. We prescribe glasses, treat eye diseases and co-manage surgical patients like many other practices.

In what ways does your practice setting differ from others?

The VA setting is an adults-only patient population, and the patient base is generally older males. The VA Dr. Laura Dowdalso has a universal electronic medical record that contains each patient’s entire health record and is able to link to other VA hospitals. The VA also has resources that practices may not, such as low vision and blind rehabilitation services. The eye clinic is part of the patient’s whole healthcare team, not just an individual service.

How is the bulk of your average work day spent?

A majority of my day is spent seeing patients or precepting students.

What other tasks/roles are included in your work day?

Most days include a didactic activity or group meeting, such as optometry journal club, interprofessional education, grand rounds or staff meetings. I also have administrative duties, including triaging consults and coordinating student schedules with the education office.

What do you consider the biggest challenge of working in this setting?

The VA is a large organization with many regulations and layers. I have a certain amount of control within the eye clinic but little to no control over IT, HR, contracting, etc.

What do you consider most rewarding about working in this setting?

Taking care of veterans and having ample time to teach.

How does the VA patient population differ from others and how does that affect your job?

The VA population tends to be elderly, and a majority of patients are male. While most practices draw from a small area, my VA encompasses a large geographic area. Significant travel distances and transportation issues, in addition to caring for the elderly patient, require extra consideration to maximize patient care. For example, it may not be practical to have a patient return next week for a visual field test if he lives three hours away and the shuttle van only goes to his region one day a week. This often leads to squeezing in extra testing that day or overbooking my schedule to “piggyback” my appointment onto a day when the patient is already scheduled for a different specialty visit at the VA. It takes a certain amount of strategizing to effectively and appropriately treat the patient in the most efficient manner.

What is your work schedule?

I work 40 hours a week (four 10-hour days with Fridays off). I do not have any nights or weekends at the VA.

What advice would you give about choosing a practice setting?

Optometry students should expose themselves through their training to a variety of practice modes. When they’re ready to graduate, they can lean on these experiences. They should also remember that their first job will not likely be the perfect job and they don’t have to stay in the mode for the rest of their career.

CORPORATE OPTICAL ADJACENT

Abby Hsu, OD

(Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry, class of 2013)

Employed as Managing Optometrist by EYEXAM, next to LensCrafters, in Montclair, Calif.

What does your practice setting have in common with other practice settings?

Quality eye care and professionalism. We put the patient first.

In what ways does your practice setting differ from others?

Most eyeglass prescriptions are available within one hour, and a wide variety of contact lenses are available.

How is the bulk of your average work day spent?

Seeing patients, managing the business, overseeing staff, partnering with the LensCrafters general manager to improve the business.

What other tasks/roles are included in your work day?

Training the staff, ordering and re-stocking contact lenses.

What do you consider most rewarding about working in this setting?

The wide variety of patients I see and establishing a relationship with them year after year. The wide variety of frames and contact lenses and the access to advanced technology.

What is your work schedule?

I work 40 hours/week, usually Tuesday through Saturday. In the retail setting, we’re open seven days a week. Another doctor works on the two days I’m off.

What advice would you give about choosing a practice setting?

Find your niche based on factors like practice speed and patient demographics. If you have an interest in low vision, vision therapy or contact lenses, find a practice that focuses on that.

 

About Eye on Optometry

Welcome to Eye on Optometry, a new blog from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)! The main goal of the blog is to provide timely and useful information to anyone who is interested in applying to optometry school. It’s all part of one of ASCO’s many strategic objectives, which is to help the schools and colleges of optometry develop a large, diverse and highly qualified national applicant pool while getting the word out about the attractiveness of a career in the profession.  We will also blog about other optometry-related topics from time to time.

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