Clinical excellence is critical but ultimately, to be a successful optometrist you need to understand people. It’s all about developing meaningful relationships with patients and colleagues.
One of the biggest misconceptions held by early career optometrists is that your success is determined solely by your clinical skills.
I used to hold this belief too. However, I have come to realise that while clinical skills are of course important, non-clinical skills are just as important, if not more so.
strong leadership and developing a close team is critical to the success of a practice
My journey with OPSM started when I was a fourth year optometry student. I began dispensing on weekends at the concept store in Macquarie Centre, Sydney. To me the practice was the paragon of best clinical care combined with a supportive team. I witnessed the highest quality of care, and the respect and courtesy shown to each and every patient first hand.
Two years later I graduated and joined the OPSM team as a fulltime employee. My time as a graduate optometrist taught me the value of having a good relationship with your support staff. My effectiveness as an optometrist was enhanced by the skillset of my stores’ dispensers, and I actively strove to build and nurture my relationships with them.
At times I worked with experienced dispensers who needed little or no guidance, and other times I worked with more junior dispensers who required more support. I devoted time to coaching and training, and had the pleasure of watching these individuals develop as professionals. My commitment to helping my support staff empowered them, and put them in a position to help me. This created a mutually beneficial work environment, ensuring the shared success of the store.
My time as a fulltime optometrist also taught me the critical importance of a strong patient-practitioner relationship. Almost every patient I saw placed an emphasis on the human interaction of their consultation or examination, and I did the same. I attribute a large part of my success, and the repeat business of my patients, to my ability to quickly and reliably build rapport. I made it a priority for my support staff and I to do everything we could to ensure that every patient felt respected, comfortable, and important every time they came in for an eye examination.
It was clear to me that strong leadership and developing a close team is critical to the success of a practice.
I further developed my knowledge and skills in leadership through my roles as managing optometrist for the Mosman and North Sydney practices, and subsequently the George St practice, one of the largest in the country.
Transitioning from OPSM Mosman and North Sydney to George St was one of the highlights of my career. The transition enabled me to share my knowledge with more optometrists and gave me the opportunity to mentor new graduates – helping them become the best optometrists and people they can be. It was my privilege to share my experiences of professional development with them and to emphasise the importance of relationship building with each other, and the patient.
Having worked at several OPSM practices, I have learned that our optometrists are unique and bring with them a variety of skill sets. Developing these skills and sharing them among our OPSM community enables all of our optometrists to continually develop and be the best practitioners they can be.
Finally, my current role as professional services manager for NSW/ACT allows me to do what I am most passionate about – that is, to provide the highest quality of patient care and ensure that our practices in NSW and the ACT do the same.
My time at OPSM has taught me that being a successful optometrist requires more than just an understanding of eyes, it requires an understanding of people. Ultimately it is about relationships with patients and colleagues, and I am incredibly fortunate and proud to work for a company that has nurtured my professional development as both a practitioner and a leader.
Elizabeth Kodari is the professional services manager for Luxottica in NSW/ACT.