The pressures placed on optometry are escalating. To avoid stress, control what you can, focus on the positives and consider your options for practice.
As optometrists, we like to remain positive, to concentrate on the many wonderful opportunities our profession presents and provide ethical, quality eye care. However, at times things can really get us down.
Some of you may be familiar with Art Epstein, a leading character on the American and international scene. Over the years he’s typically shouted from the rooftops about our profession and all we have to offer. Of late however, I’ve noted an increasingly negative slant to his weekly columns. There’s rarely any clinical content and he’s become very political. He cites damage to the profession caused by health funds, Obamacare, law changes that suit online retailers, cowboys etc. Although many of these changes are supposedly designed to ‘protect’ the consumer, they are more about economics than protecting patient’s eyes and general health.
It’s been like this for years but seems to be escalating.
Stress, as we know, is a killer… deal with the things that cause us angst and focus on the many positives that remain
Commercial pressures and the ever-increasing control of health funds are frustrating many practitioners. By reducing cover and directing patients to affiliated providers, funds are making some see red. On top of that, an unparalleled advance in technology is disrupting the way we do things and interact with our patients.
If we let negativity get the better of us, we slip into a downward spiral that can lead to demotivation, dissatisfaction and indeed, debilitating depression for some. Stress, as we know, is a killer. We need to do our best to deal with the things that cause us angst and focus on the many positives that remain.
Who Wears the Pants?
For some, dealing with such stresses may involve changing the way we practise. To my mind there’s no substitute for being your own boss. You control the decisions you make and who you deal with. Yes, there is added responsibility – as well as being an optometrist, you’ll need to manage the business, staff, accounts, marketing, landlords, etc., but it’s worth it.
A number of older practitioners are seeking a way out, providing the opportunity to purchase or buy into a practice on a good deal. Sure, some older practices are in need of a spruce up, systems update and new equipment but that provides opportunity to set things up as you’d like them to be.
Solo practice carries the greatest responsibility and there’s less opportunity to take long periods of leave but, on the other hand, all the decisions you make are yours, for better or worse.
Buying into a partnership or bringing other like-minded practitioners into a partnership is a great model. You can share the load and find niches of practice management you prefer. Some like the business aspects while others enjoy technology. Building brand awareness, managing social media, staff training, IT management and so on, are other areas one can focus on.
Partnerships also give you an opportunity to take longer leave or pursue other interests – such as lecturing, studying or volunteering. Another advantage of group practice and partnerships is you’re likely to attract practitioners who specialise in specific areas – contact lenses, myopia control, behavioural optometry, low vision or glaucoma for example – which in turn offers patients broader scope and delivers potential for inter-referral.
While decisions may take a bit longer in group practices, or may involve some compromise, the upside of discussing and debating issues is that you’re less likely to jump, boots and all, into something that could be a millstone around your neck. I’ve seen it happen all too often.
Group practice can therefore be a winning formula.
I still believe optometry is a great profession. If you make the right decisions it can be very satisfying and rewarding. Nothing beats seeing a happy patient and providing life changing care. In some cases our skills can be life saving.
Keep smiling, stay positive and stick to your guns.