Published in Non-Clinical

The OD's Survival Guide: Recovering From the COVID-19 Shutdown

This is editorially independent content
5 min read

The pandemic caused huge disruptions to our lives and practices. Here's one OD's pathway to recovering from the shutdown and working through the career challenges brought on by 2020.

The OD's Survival Guide: Recovering From the COVID-19 Shutdown
To say that 2020 and the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges is certainly the understatement of the century! We were all affected on both personal and professional levels and it has been amazing to see the innovation we have tapped into to face these challenges head-on.
It is easy to fall into despair when your world gets shaken up. Our brains like habit, schedules, and predictability. It’s why we get frustrated and upset when our schedule gets thrown off by the complicated patient or the emergency that walks in the door as we are putting on our coat to leave.
So what’s the constructive thing to do when you lose your job or your practice income is slashed? I am a big fan of acronyms, so as I have worked through the challenges of the past year I have used FOCUS to keep me on track as I navigate forward.

F: Flexibility

We can form a vision in our head of what we want our career and practice to look like, and get attached to that vision and the steps we initially planned on taking to get there. While keeping your “eye on the prize” can be useful in keeping you motivated, if the steps to get to the prize don’t look like how we initially visualized them we can get frustrated and stuck.
If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that nothing is permanent! Maybe we need to piece together a couple of part-time jobs to make ends meet until we find an opportunity in the mode of practice we really want. Maybe it means one or more of those part-time jobs is in a setting that we really don’t care for. I can tell you from experience that every practice I have worked in has taught me something new and useful I have carried with me to my next opportunity, even the ones I couldn’t wait to leave!
Be open to the lessons each day presents, as there may be a pearl that turns out to be invaluable in your next venture—even how you do NOT want to do something.

O: Outside the box (or the exam lane!)

Do you have a hobby or interest you have always wanted to expand or even turn into a side hustle? If you have some extra time on your hands this may be the time to jump on it! There are a ton of resources both free and paid to guide you through everything from website design to blogging to podcasting.
We tend to paint ourselves into the optometrist box and society often tells us if we aren’t making money on something then it’s not really part of our identity or what we “do.” It’s time to step out of those restrictions and expand your horizons.

C: Creative

Many practices and practitioners have flexed their creative muscles to expand their services and their revenue. Like it or not, the online shopping experience is expanding and patients of all ages expect to be able to interact with businesses online. Most of what we do absolutely has to be in person, but what could you offer your patients before and after they leave your office to keep their attention and their loyalty?
Now may be the time to offer not only online contact ordering but also items like dry eye products, nutritional supplements, and cosmetics. You could choose either to stock inventory in your practice and sell onsite as well, or use a dropship supplier or affiliate program to eliminate inventory and shipping logistics.
Creative marketing can be fun as well as profitable. Almost every month has an eyecare-related awareness topic to use as a jumping-off point. Now could be the time to stretch out of your comfort zone and explore:
  • Hosting live webinars
  • Being a podcast guest
  • Posting videos and graphics across social media platforms
  • Writing for your local newspaper
  • Contacting your local TV stations and offering to be a regular guest

U: Use what you have

Make an inventory of what tools and resources you have available as well as of your strengths and interests. Have you always wanted to specialize or expand your practice to include dry eye, myopia control, or sports vision? Start small and expand as you can. Remember the mighty oak started as an acorn and Jeff Bezos started Amazon in his garage in 1994. There are few true overnight success stories. Start from where you are with what you have, and trust and enjoy the process as well as the thought of where it may lead.

S: Set goals and milestones

Once you set your goal or goals, break each into small, actionable steps and celebrate each milestone. The joy really is in the journey as you learn new things about yourself and your practice while you conquer each task and tackle any obstacles. Allow and encourage yourself to celebrate the steps along the path. Waiting to celebrate only when you reach the final goal robs you of the delight of the present moment, which is truly the only thing we are guaranteed.

CovalentCareers is committed to supporting optometrists and optometry students during the Coronavirus pandemic. For more optometry-specific resources and information, visit our Optometry COVID-19 Resource Center.

Pamela Blade, OD
About Pamela Blade, OD

I am a 2009 graduate of IUSO and have worked coast-to-coast in a variety of practice settings. I found my niche as an independent contractor with Warby Parker in Orlando, FL. Being on the doorstep to the theme parks, I get to see a wide variety of primary care patients, including world travelers and my local neighbors. I love being active in the community and hearing people say to their family and friends, “That’s my eye doctor!” I keep it real by being a foster mom for a local pet rescue and indulging my addiction to runDisney events.

Pamela Blade, OD
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