How To Hire an Optometrist for Your Ophthalmology Practice

Jul 8, 2021
9 min read
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In the eight years since Parkhurst NuVision has been serving San Antonio, we have never lost a full-time optometrist. I attribute this to two factors: hiring doctors who align with our core values and then fostering an atmosphere that makes them want to stay.

Though we’re still a relatively young company, we have grown to a staff of nine doctors and over one hundred employees, so over the span of this time, we have done a lot of hiring. In this article, I will share the principles we employ and lessons I have learned along the way.

The four C’s of our vision practice

First and foremost, it is imperative that you have a clear vision of who you are as a company, so you can bring in like-minded individuals. We are committed to the four C’s: culture, core values, consistency, and co-management.

At Parkhurst NuVision, we focus on creating and maintaining a company culture that encourages people to become their best and give back to the community. We have a well-defined set of core values, which we apply to everything we do. We are dedicated to consistency in patient care, training, and everyday operations. There is no ambiguity in our mission. I believe that when there is clarity and people know exactly what their role is within an organization, they can thrive. They can more easily define their goals and develop a sense of both purpose and accountability.

In addition, as a modern LASIK and cataract surgery center, Parkhurst NuVision lends itself to a high level of co-management between ophthalmologists and optometrists. In a comprehensive vision correction surgery space such as ours, co-management lives in its ideal world, where the two professions can really complement each other and work together.

Working within a co-management optometry model

There are so many different types of jobs within optometry today, and what an optometrist can do is so diverse that it is crucial to find a candidate who fits your specific niche. In our integrated model, MDs and ODs are under one roof. So when it comes to recruiting and hiring optometrists, we know that our preferred candidates will either have training in anterior segment surgical co-management or a focus on ocular disease.

My strategy is to identify our current need as precisely as possible and narrow our search to obvious candidates. For example, we’ve found doctors who have completed ocular disease residencies get a high level of pathology training and dealing with comorbidities, which is very applicable to working in cataract co-management.

One particular path we take toward finding the best candidates is through the Refractive Surgery Alliance (RSA) website. The alliance is made up of over 300 refractive surgeons from 30 different countries who have come together with the mission to grow refractive surgery globally.

The site’s collaborative care forum primarily includes optometric members, so we have found it to be an excellent place to reach out and post when we are looking for a new doctor with a designated skill set to join our team.

For all practices, it is important to identify the exact role the new doctor will fill within their facility. Then, look for channels conducive to reaching that person, be it by directly calling specialty residency programs, posting on relevant sites and job boards, or employing a recruiter for your practice.

Hiring hungry, humble, and smart

In addition to knowing the qualities that define you as a company, it is essential to know the qualities you expect your team to possess. Across all of our hiring, we follow the principles outlined in Patrick M. Lencioni’s book, The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues. The book sets forth the three attributes most valuable in new hires: hungry, humble, and smart.

We want people who are hungry to do more, grow more, and help grow the practice. We also want people that are humble enough to be excited to learn and collaborate with a team of doctors, instead of coming in thinking they already know everything. These two qualities often result in an optometrist who is eager to learn.

We are always looking for doctors who are open to new concepts and willing to adapt to our practice’s way of doing things. For us, new doctors have proven the most enthusiastic and adaptable. Sometimes this means young, but other times it simply means someone who has not been in the field long enough to have developed a set of rigid habits.

And, we want people that are smart. On this front, there are really two kinds of smart. There is book smart; knowing your stuff is the cost of entry. But in many ways, emotional intelligence is even more important. We want people who are going to interact with our team, our employees, our patients, our referring doctors, and our business associates in an emotionally intelligent way.

Sharing space with Rosenberg School of Optometry

When it comes to hiring, our practice benefits from one very unique factor: we occupy the same building as the Rosenberg School of Optometry. When we first opened, as a company of five people, we were actually a tenant inside their clinic, renting three lanes. We now inhabit about 40,000 square feet inside of that same large building where the optometry school is still located.

As part of our relationship with the school, we facilitate an opportunity for all fourth-year students to spend one month in our practice as a mandatory part of their in-house rotations. It's a core part of the curriculum that enables us not only to help shape new doctors but to find potential employees. When we find top-quality students who are inclined toward refractive and cataract, we pursue them after graduation. We ultimately have hired several of our former students to come on as our faculty or attending doctors.

Considering incorporating a residency

Obviously, not every practice has the benefit of being directly affiliated with an optometry school, however, there is another way to incorporate a learning component. In addition to our affiliation with Rosenberg, we took the steps of creating a formally accredited residency in optometry and an ophthalmology refractive surgery fellowship.

This means every year we meet applicants from across the country who apply for a residency with us. Then, we get the opportunity to teach a resident for a whole year. This opens up yet another venue for recruiting talent, ensuring they are trained up to our standards, and then having the opportunity to offer them employment upon completion of the program.

How to maintain and retain satisfied optometrists

Once we have found a great candidate, they go through a typical phone screening and in-person interview process followed by basic onboarding, in regards to OSHA, HIPAA compliance, and co-management compliance. Our next stage of onboarding lays the foundation for our long-term retention of optometrists and other staff.

During this phase, we make certain the new hire is educated on our mission, core values, goals as a company, and vision for the future. We ensure they understand what is expected from all of our employees and the important function they serve within the practice. Building this foundation of understanding and mutual respect is the first step in retention. Retention comprises both tangible and intangible aspects.

Tangible traits of our company culture

Benefits such as pay bonus structures, continuing education assistance, healthcare for the entire family, and term long-term disability policies are obvious tangibles that lead to a doctor’s overall satisfaction. We also make certain our doctors have all of the resources they need to be successful, including state-of-the-art technology, accessible laptops for charting, scribes and technicians to ease workflow, a dedicated administrative staff, and solid leadership.

The intangible influence of core values

As to the intangible, this lies in creating an atmosphere of connection, community, and camaraderie.

At Parkhurst NuVision, we think everybody deserves to see—not only in our local city, but in our region and our globe. That is our bigger mission. So, in our practice, we have a model for giving back and paying it forward. Through the Himalayan Cataract Project, for every person who undergoes a refractive surgery with us, we fund cataract surgery for someone around the world. For example, a LASIK surgery in San Antonio means somebody in Kenya doesn't have to be blind anymore. Being a part of a bigger mission is something our team, our doctors, and even our patients get really excited about.

Additionally, once every couple of months, we host a company-wide event where a specific doctor will plan a fun outing. For example, a couple of the doctors planned an excursion to a minor league baseball game where we rented a section and just enjoyed a game together. For the doctors in charge, it was fun to be able to share their passion for the sport with coworkers. For all of us, it strengthened our relationships and built company culture.

Final thoughts

Know your company’s core values and find like-minded doctors. Look for optometrists and staff who are hungry for knowledge and success, humble enough to be mentored, and smart, both clinically and emotionally. Find where your ideal candidates reside and reach out to them there. Pair a good financial package with a great support system and combine a good company culture that’s fun to be a part of with a mission that's outside of yourself. These are the keys to both recruiting and retaining great doctors.

If you don’t have the time or resources to manage the hiring process or are having a tough time hiring an optometrist, let Eyes on Eyecare help. Our eyecare recruiting team can find an OD who is perfect for your practice.

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About Gregory D. Parkhurst, MD, FACS

Dr. Gregory Parkhurst is a board-certified and fellowship-trained ophthalmologist and the chief surgeon at Parkhurst NuVision. Dr. Parkhurst graduated from medical school at Northwestern University. He then joined the US Army, rising to the rank of Major and accepting …

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