New graduates can take pride in the fact that all their hard work has finally paid off. The time, energy, effort, and money spent on school have culminated in realizing their dream of becoming an optometrist. Now, it is time to utilize that education and experience by entering the eyecare industry. The goal is, of course, to find a workplace that provides room to grow and gain confidence as a clinician, fulfills financial needs, offers competitive benefits, and allows for a healthy work/life balance.
As new grads, Erin Drees, OD, and Noel Arackal, OD were faced with the daunting task of finding their first job. After weighing all the options, both realized becoming an optometrist at Shopko Optical was the most promising path they could take. In this article, they share their job search journey and reveal the factors that led to their choosing a career with Shopko Optical.
Finding the perfect job after optometry school
Upon graduation, the greatest challenge—and also the greatest reward—is in finding the ideal job and starting your career with ardor and assurance. According to Dr. Erin Drees, “Finding your first job can be stressful for anyone. When you add in that you’ve been working toward your dream for years and you finally reach that achievement, there’s a lot of pressure going into that first job search! It’s challenging shifting your mind from dream to reality and then trying to align the two.” Dr. Noel Arackal found he also had to weigh in things he hadn’t thought about before, like income taxes, cost of living, and navigating where to live.
The first step to finding your most comfortable career fit is determining exactly what the “perfect job” looks like for you. This entails looking at factors such as scope of practice, schedule, available equipment, office size, support staff, location, benefits, and company philosophy.
Dr. Arackal came up with this criteria: “The perfect job is one where you can practice to the extent that you’re most comfortable with and where you are happy to go to work every morning, where you can mitigate the burnout that is all too common in healthcare.”
After posing this question to herself, Dr. Drees found a similar answer. She said:
“The ‘perfect’ job is finding one that shares your values and priorities.”
Dr. Drees added, "As a new grad, it’s determining what’s most important to you whether it be practice location, modality, technology, hours/schedule, etc. And these can be tough to determine when you really have to get down to what is going to make you happy and, in effect, make you the best practitioner.”
Learning about Shopko Optical
Once both new doctors had a clear vision, the search to find a workplace that met their requirements began. During their searches, both landed on Shopko Optical and determined the company was definitely deserving of a closer look. Dr. Arackal saw a posting on his school’s job board and was impressed by what Shopko Optical had to offer.
Growing up in the Midwest, Dr. Drees was already familiar with the company, but began seriously considering them within her last year of school on the recommendation of a recruiter. Her previous knowledge of the company provided an automatic assurance. In the words of Dr. Drees, “Shopko Optical has a really unique mix of having a longstanding presence in the community while also having a start-up vibe with the stand alone optical. You get the best of both worlds as experience is coupled with innovation and growth.”
Next, both began further researching the company, specifically in regards to its history, services, mission, and core values. The first important discovery—Shopko Optical has been providing quality eye care for 40+ years. In regards to services, Shopko Optical offers a full scope, including eye exams, contact lens fitting, refractive services, diagnosis and treatment of eye disease along with cataract and refractive surgery co-management.
Aligning values and matching principles to optometry practice
Since having matching values to their employer was intrinsically important for both doctors, they delved deeply into this facet of the company to find the principles that guided its practices.
Of the company’s core values, they discovered:
- Shopko Optical has a deep commitment to delivering patient-centered personalized and comprehensive eye care while also prioritizing the patient’s overall well being.
- Shopko Optical’s doctors and opticians are among the most trusted in the industry and are dedicated to providing expert eye care with compassion, competency, and convenience.
- Shopko Optical believes in providing state-of-the-art technology and a vast variety of lens and frame options while staying firmly rooted in its hometown values.
- Shopko Optical is devoted to creating a positive environment for both patients and employees and fosters a friendly and welcoming environment.
- Shopko Optical values their patients as friends and neighbors and strives to make a beneficial impact in the communities they serve.
Both ODs found their core values closely aligned to those listed above. For Dr. Arackal, one of the most important aspects was Shopko Optical’s holistic approach. He said, “I also strive for the entire well being of the patient, and not just their eyes. Although the health of the patient’s eyes is my primary concern, there have been multiple times where I’ve caught larger systemic issues and had to coordinate with other members of the patient’s care team.”
Interviewing with Shopko Optical
After realizing that Shopko Optical would be an outstanding organization with which to start their careers, Dr. Arackal and Dr. Drees applied and were granted interviews. As to his experience, Dr. Arackal states, “I worked directly with Shopko Optical and contacted them. They worked with me to find a location that I was happy with and walked me through the process.”
Of her encounter, Dr. Drees recalls, “During my interview process, one thing that stood out to me was that Shopko Optical doctors stay there. Many of the doctors have decades of experience with Shopko Optical, which is a testament to how much the company values its doctors. Doctors are given independence yet are also supported and know that they are part of a larger community of doctors.”
Getting started with Shopko Optical
After finding themselves in the fortunate position of being hired as new optometrists with Shopo Optical, the doctors entered the often intimidating contract negotiations. Of this part of the process, Dr. Drees stated, “I couldn’t have had a better experience with the contract process. I felt the Shopko Optical team was there for me—truthful and transparent. During my first conversations with Shopko Optical, I was able to talk honestly about what I valued, and they took this into consideration when presenting an offer. I felt very comfortable asking any question and also felt respected through the entire process. They give the same level of respect to a newly graduated OD as an experienced OD.”
For Dr. Arackal, the experience was also a pleasant one: “The contract was clear and fair. They worked with me to modify my contract to my specific situation. They were very polite and transparent through the entire process answering any questions/addressing any concerns I had. And, the compensation was far above what some of my colleagues received.”
Onboarding with Shopko Optical
With credentialing, licensing, and onboarding, the transition to becoming a working optometrist can be overwhelming. Credentialing was a huge concern for Dr. Arackal. Luckily, his Shopko Optical team stepped up to help. He stated, “Navigating all these insurance companies by myself would not have gone as well as it did. Having a community of other doctors around who were open to taking my questions and helping me get started was a huge plus. The overall process was way easier than I thought it would be. They walked me through the flow of the office, took care of all my insurance credentialing, and eased me into my role.”
The many benefits of practicing with Shopko Optical
As Dr. Arackal and Dr. Drees found upon launching into their new careers, Shopko Optical goes above and beyond to give its optometrists all the tools they need to thrive. By supplying a full administrative staff along with corporate medical billing, optometrists can focus their full attention on where it should be—the patient. In addition, each office is equipped with up-to-date technology, including visual field, retinal cameras, auto refractors, non-contact tonometers, and digital phoropters. Shopko Optical also boasts a state-of-the-art optical lab in its home base of Green Bay Wisconsin.
Shopko Optical facilitates open communication and a corporate culture of caring that became evident early on. According to Dr. Drees, “At the corporate level, the team is responsive to any need I may have whether it be a piece of equipment that needs attention or a resource that I’m seeking.”
Dr. Arackal echoed this sentiment with:
“It is a very positive corporate culture and I am confident that corporate stands behind me when it comes to my choices on patient care.”
Being part of the Shopko Optical team
Trustworthiness is one of Shopko Optical’s pillars, with a promise to always act in the best interest of not only their patients, but fellow teammates. Both ODs have found being part of a true team and being surrounded by experienced optometrists who are eager to offer support and share their knowledge has been invaluable.
Dr Drees stated, “It’s incredible what you learn in school and externships, but I’m still in awe of how much you learn in the first year of practicing. Find a job that helps facilitate these relationships and has a culture of working together in effort to provide the patient with the highest level of care. There’s also a level of comfort being part of a community of other eyecare professionals who I can reach out to for questions.”
Finding a full-scope practice where he could gradually build a patient-base at his own speed with his team’s guidance was precisely the atmosphere Dr. Arackal needed to flourish. He stated, “I can practice to the extent I'm comfortable with a good referral network to take care of the issues I feel like I need help addressing. Our team is on the same page. And, if I have concerns I can count on them actually being addressed instead of dismissed.”
Putting Shopko Optical’s patient-first philosophy into practice
During their initial research both doctors were attracted by Shopko Optical’s patient-centered philosophy. Now, as working optometrists, they are implementing this altruistic way of practicing into their everyday encounters and have found that Shopko Optical genuinely does put the patient first. For both, it makes coming to work each day incredibly rewarding.
According to Dr. Drees, “Shopko Optical’s Midwest roots reinforce that patient care and respect are at the forefront of everything we do. Each day when I look over my schedule, I think of each appointment as an opportunity to make someone’s day a little better or maybe even improve their daily life by addressing their individual needs. Vision is an integral part of every single person’s day, so I don’t take any clinical decision lightly whether it be as simple as a new contact lens prescription or sending someone on for further medical care.”
“I personally try to address all the issues the patient brings to me and I see the same with staff and how they interact with patients when they come in with even the smallest of problems,” Dr. Arackal said, “It’s always important to put the patient first and, at Shopko Optical, if I feel like additional testing needs to be done or if the exam needs to go longer to cover issues, I can be confident that the company stands behind me and my choices when it comes to patient care”
Why Shopko Optical could be right for you too
Another tenet of Shopko Optical’s core values is competency.
The company has a staunch commitment to promoting learning, advancement, and improvement within their staff and doctors. For new ODs, this means Shopko Optical is fertile ground for growth and gaining proficiency with the aim of becoming a better and better practitioner. Shopko Optical affords this opportunity by offering a full scope of practice with practical support, financial security, schedule flexibility, and encouragement from more experienced doctors.
When Dr. Drees joined Shopko Optical, she floated between three locations. She admits, at the time, she didn’t fully realize what an extraordinary opportunity it would be to work in three different settings alongside different doctors. Now, she cherishes the knowledge she gained. “It was a great bridge from student to new doctor. I’ve taken a piece of each doctor’s approach to practice and incorporated these pieces into my own practice as I strive to keep growing as a clinician.”
Since joining the Shopko Optical family, Dr. Arackal stated, “I’ve become much more confident in my role as a clinician due to the variety of patients and the surprising amount of ocular disease I see daily.”
The company also understands the importance of life outside the office. Dr. Drees stated, “Having a good work-life balance is a top priority. The combination of Shopko Optical’s compensation, vacation time, and work schedule helped make my priority a reality. I have time for the things I love outside of work as well as the means to be able to do them.”
Dr. Arackal and Dr. Drees are both now enjoying successful and satisfying careers at Shopko Optical. Dr Arackal has found that this setting has enabled him to “actually feel like an independent optometrist who can practice to the extent they feel comfortable” by furnishing him the freedom to practice the way he wants and set his own schedule while still feeling fully appreciated by his team and corporate.
In closing, Dr. Drees sums her experience as a Shopko Optical optometrist: “Being a good doctor is aiming for continual growth and trying to be better than you were yesterday, and Shopko Optical gives doctors the opportunity to do this by supporting their doctors with the environment, resources, and independence they need to succeed.”