Published in Non-Clinical

How to Leave Your Optometry Job Gracefully

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6 min read

Discover seven steps for leaving your current optometry job in a polite and professional manner and transitioning to a new stage of your career.

How to Leave Your Optometry Job Gracefully
Regardless of whether it’s for the right or wrong reasons, leaving your current place of employment is never easy. But optometry is a small profession, and doing so in a professional and polite manner is of the utmost importance.
Here are seven considerations to make the transition into your next opportunity a smooth process.

7 steps for a graceful exit from your optometry job

Step 1: Ensure your employer is the FIRST to know

When an opportunity arises, it’s natural to be excited. But staff and patients can be very perceptive and may pick up on subtle words or actions that indicate you’re leaving before you’re ready to “have the talk.”
Be mindful of this and practice your poker face until you’re ready to speak to your employer.

Step 2: Give your employer proper notice

While in the working world, the “2-weeks notice” is a general guideline, I think most would agree that unless there are extenuating circumstances, 2 weeks is WAY too short. This begs the question, “What is the appropriate amount of notice you should give?”
My first recommendation is to revisit your contract. It was your first promise to your employer and (if able) should be respected until the end. I’ve seen associates give as short as 1 month and as long as 4-months notice.
After that, you can consider several factors, such as the standing nature of your relationship with your current employer(s), the current needs of the practice, whether your original opportunity was part-time or full-time, and the timeline for your next employment opportunity.

When I was a 1099 contractor with an employer I LOVED, I gave 2 months' notice but stayed on for 3 months until more credentialing came through for my next job.

Step 3: Discuss the patient narrative

“What happened to Dr. X?” It’s an inevitable question that patients and staff will ask. I advise getting ahead of the narrative and speaking with your employer about how you both would like to break the news to patients. Doing so protects your reputation and the reputation of the practice.
It’s best not to go into negative details about your dissatisfaction with the work culture or your employer, but also not to be so vague that they see through it. A half-truth that patients can identify with is the best balance.
When I left, I was permitted to tell patients and offered: “I love it here, but the commute is quite far, and I have an opportunity closer to home.” At the time, gas prices were rising, and 99% of patients accepted the narrative I offered them.

Step 4: If you love them, leave them

“Them,” of course, refers to your patients and your reputation. In your time of employment, you are bound to have patients and staff who you LOVE and who feel the same in return. But respect that if the patients came to you because of practice, they are meant to stay in the practice.

Have I seen doctors take patients and staff? Yes. Did it change my level of respect for them? Unfortunately, yes.

Of course, building your own patient base and staff from scratch is scary. Trust that you WILL be prouder of yourself when you do it with integrity. If patients find you, they find you. But planting seeds with them before you go is highly inappropriate and should be avoided at all costs.
The one exception may be if you offer a specialty that the current practice can’t accommodate (e.g., specialty lenses, advanced dry eye treatments, additional testing like optical coherence tomography [OCT] or Humphrey visual field [HVF]). Despite that, unless you have the blessing from your employer, I’d advise against it to save your reputation.

Step 5: Arrange for transfer of care

As you wrap things up, consider the timing of your patients’ care. Did you just change a glaucoma medication, and the patient needs an intraocular pressure (IOP) check you won’t be able to complete? It is beneficial to start establishing patients with alternative providers.
In my experience in a large group practice, I would recommend giving patients TWO alternative providers just in case the doctor you recommended is unavailable or leaves as well. Figuring out who can continue care will leave patients feeling valued until the end.

Step 6: Keep your work ethic

Consider the last month(s) of employment your very own Reputation Tour. Rather than kicking back and relaxing until the end, use the opportunity to outperform. Going above and beyond will leave your reputation with glowing reviews among your peers.

Step 7:  Exchange information and keep in touch

Optometry is very small, and you’re bound to run into your future employer again. Keep in touch and try to keep the relationship as positive as possible. If it ended sour, aim for neutrality.
Like any relationship, it’s totally normal to look back and see that, good or bad, your job served a purpose for a specific time in your life. With hindsight, you may gain more appreciation for your past opportunity. View each experience as a building block in your long career ahead.

Final thoughts

Regardless of the circumstances that lead you to leave your current employer, doing so in a professional manner is important.
Exiting gracefully will leave a positive impression, maintain your personal integrity, and serve to respect the impact you had during your time with the organization.
Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO
About Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO

Dr. Emilie Seitz is a North Coast native from Cleveland, Ohio. She studied Biology at The Ohio State University. Following her undergraduate studies, Dr. Seitz obtained her doctorate degree in 2020 from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University in Philadelphia, PA.

She completed her optometry rotations in 4 different states: Ohio (Cleveland Eye Clinic), Pennsylvania (Nittany Eye Associates), Kentucky (Danville Eye Center), and North Carolina (South Charlotte Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center). After graduation, Dr. Seitz completed her residency in ocular disease at the WG (Bill) Hefner VAMC in Salisbury, NC, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emilie Seitz, OD, FAAO
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