Effective Hiring and Training Strategies for Optometrists

Effective Hiring and Training Strategies for Optometrists

Staffing an optometry clinic with talented team members is one of the most important investments you can make for your practice. But hiring and training is about more than just filling roles – it requires strategies to attract skilled candidates, efficiently onboard them, and cultivate an environment where they can thrive long-term.

Whether launching a new practice or adding to your team at an established office, implementing a thoughtful hiring and training framework will pay dividends throughout the life of your practice. This article explores key elements to incorporate, from leveraging online resources to competency assessments, mentorship programs, and mitigating staffing needs through outsourcing. With deliberate planning, you can build a strong team equipped to deliver excellent vision care.

Make Retention a Priority

Before getting into recruiting strategies, it’s wise to highlight the importance of staff retention as a strategic priority. High turnover doesn’t just disrupt operations and patient care; it can have significant financial and cultural repercussions in your practice. When you factor in lost productivity, and the cost of training new hires, replacing an employee can amount to twice their original salary. Understanding how to build an environment that retains staff is important for ensuring continuity of care, maintaining a healthy workplace culture, and boosting profitability.

A straightforward yet effective approach involves conducting an anonymous survey of your current staff to learn what specifically enhances their job satisfaction. Ask them about the perks and policies they value most, such as flexible scheduling, professional development funds, or even sporadic team lunches. Many of these perks don’t have to be costly, and you may discover simple yet impactful changes that can improve workplace morale. Seize these opportunities and demonstrate your commitment to your staff by promptly implementing these easy wins.

Another aspect to consider is the balance between profitability and a positive work culture. While the financial success of the practice is undoubtedly vital, creating a positive work environment and promoting work-life balance for staff shouldn’t be overlooked. Employees who feel engaged, supported, and content are more likely to deliver high-quality care and establish meaningful relationships with patients, ultimately improving patient satisfaction and the practice’s success. Therefore, always include retention as a key performance indicator you track and stay alert to factors that may contribute to staff burnout. Investing in your team’s well-being reaps long-term benefits, from patient satisfaction to increased profitability.

One often overlooked strategy is providing emotional and mental support for your staff. Regularly check in with them, not just about work performance but also about their general well-being. This can go a long way in demonstrating that you care about them as individuals, which in turn fosters loyalty and a sense of belonging, making them less likely to leave the practice.

Vet for Organizational Culture Fit  

Top candidates with all the preferred qualifications on paper can sometimes flounder at your clinic if their work values don’t align with your culture. Assessing cultural fit during hiring prevents these mismatches. In order to do that, you have to first understand your practice: Is your practice fast-paced and looking to grow? Or is it stable and happily serving a community with deep relationships and decades of history? Is your practice team-focused or more independent? Would it be a good place for someone who is looking for their next career opportunity? Or are you a private practice that considers every staff member part of the family? Are you looking for out-of-the-box thinkers or those adept at protocols?

Create a short cultural fit survey to share with applicants. Ask questions like preferred work pace, motivations, ideal office environment, and their thoughts on continuing education. Follow up with behavioral interviews to probe how they’d approach scenarios you commonly encounter. Look for self-awareness about their preferences.

However, take care not to let unconscious biases about factors like age or background influence assessments. The goal is simply determining if expectations and work styles sync up with their ability. With culture fit in mind from the outset, new hires will be better positioned for success.

Develop Robust Onboarding and Mentorship Programs

Classroom training alone rarely equips new staff with the full range of competencies needed at your unique optometric practice. A structured onboarding and mentorship program fills knowledge gaps with experiential learning.

Assign each new ophthalmic technician or assistant a mentor – an experienced team member invested in their success. Have them shadow their mentor directly, observing workflows. Outline checklists of capabilities to master, from customer service interactions to using EHR systems effectively.

Set up weekly one-on-one meetings for the first six months for questions and growth discussions. Create forums for mentees to share milestones and lessons learned. Supplement with periodic group training sessions on policies and skills development.

Beyond accelerating competency, strong mentorship nurtures emotional investment and camaraderie between seasoned and new staff. These relationships cement retention and extend your clinic’s institutional knowledge.

Leverage Digital Platforms to Source Candidates

When it comes to advertising your optometry job openings, the location is key. Optometry schools typically offer job boards where you can post vacancies. Furthermore, both the American Optometric Association’s Excel Career Center and Eyes on Eyecare have job boards specifically designed for eye care professionals. They make it easy for candidates to search job listings for optometrist practices. Also, don’t overlook the utility of state association websites and state boards’ employment sections. These platforms often attract candidates actively seeking opportunities in your state, ensuring a higher likelihood of attracting local talent.

Incorporate Competency-Based Hiring Practices

Standard interviews focus mainly on credentials and job history. Competency-based interviewing instead evaluates concrete skills needed for the role. This better assesses if qualified applicants can perform the day-to-day priorities they’ll face.

First, identify core competencies the open position demands, like proficiency in specific equipment, customer service expertise, or workflow management. Develop a rubric to rate candidate competency levels in each.

Incorporate practical tests and scenario-based questions aligned to those competencies into interviews. For an assistant role, have them walk through scheduling a complex multi-doctor appointment scenario. This reveals strengths and development needs.

Just ensure competency-based practices stay holistic. Supplement with culture-fit and value-based questions to gauge overall coherence with your clinic environment.

Strategically Incorporate Outsourcing as a Staffing Solution

Expanding staff isn’t always feasible or prudent, especially for smaller practices. Outsourcing specialized functions to external teams is an alternative worth exploring.

For instance, optometry-focused Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms can handle crucial but time-consuming tasks like appointment scheduling, intake, insurance authorization, and billing. This quickly adds workforce support without taking on more hiring and management duties.

Start by identifying pain points like booking backlogs that outsourcing could alleviate. Vet potential partners thoroughly – they must share your values around patient experience. Treat hiring a BPO like hiring a new staff member. Interview them carefully for culture fit, just like an employee, and make sure their strengths and skill sets blend well with how you want your tasks handled. Check out our guide on Conducting a cost-benefit analysis of a BPO in Optometry.

Hiring for Practice Success

Like any aspect of operating an optometry practice, thoughtful planning and consistent monitoring ensure your hiring and training strategies remain effective as your clinic evolves. Prioritizing retention lays the foundation. Investing in mentorship, digitizing recruitment, and using competency-based practices improves talent development and culture fit assessments. And exploring outsourcing as a flexible staffing tool can strategically complement your team. By being proactive and embracing best practices around staff recruitment, onboarding, and development, your clinic can assemble a skilled team equipped to deliver excellent vision care for years to come. This, in turn, helps your practice thrive.


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