Tips for New Optometry Grads

7:31 PM

I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of optometry students from my alma mater, the Southern College of Optometry earlier this week, and ever since then I have been thinking about the transition from student to practicing doctor.  It was not too long ago that I was in the classroom learning the techniques and skills that I utilize every day in diagnosing and treating my patients.  For all of those optometry school students out there, the rest of this blog post is for you!

My Graduating Class from SCO!

Best Advice for new (or soon to be new) grads:
  • Take a deep breath; you are more than prepared to see your own patients!  By the time you get to the end of your fourth year of optometry school you have logged so many hours in patient care that you will have seen an example of almost every case that walks through your door.  And you have the advantage that all of this experience both from externships and classroom time being fresh in your memory.  If you are concerned about your diagnosis, you can always triage with a fellow optometrist (whether they are at your practice, mentors from school, or fellow peers from your optometry school days) or refer to a local ophthalmologist that specializes in that area of eye care. 
  • Use your youth to your advantage.  Most new graduates are in their late twenties, and your patients are going to notice your relative young age.  Some more kindly than others.  For as many times that I have had patients ask me: "just how old are you?", I have had someone else (or sometimes even that same person by the end of the exam!) compliment me on how thorough I was.  Patients appreciate a new doctor's willingness to explain and patience with their questions of concern or during the refraction.  As one of my patients recently put it, "I can tell you aren't jaded yet, and I appreciate that!"
  • Trying to build a reputation (and a good patient base)? Two ideas that can win you a lot of patient loyalty:
    • 1) Always send a thorough referral letter or examination report to other doctors that you are triaging care.  The patient also appreciates it when you take time to send their primary care doctors a thorough report if you are following ocular manifestations of systemic conditions.
    • 2) Call back your patients to follow up!  Have a red eye?  Call your patients in a day or two to make sure they are doing better.  You won't believe the positive response you get from this simple act!
I have also had questions about how much money you can expect to make as a new grad.  Truly, this answer varies depending on your type of practice and the area of the country you are working in.  You can expect anything from $75,00-95,000 on average as a new grad.  If you are interested in a more retail/commercial chain practice this can get into the $100,000s.  If you are interested in a more urban practice setting, expect to work at least some weekend hours.  In smaller towns this is not as prevalent yet, fortunately. Keep in mind that smaller privately owned practices will often pay much less initially, but you may have a part-ownership opportunity available in the future. 

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2 comments

  1. I'm really so impressed with this advice! What are some things that can propel you into getting an internship to learn more about the job while you're in college? I'm at the point where I need to do an internship, and working in an optometrist office like that will really give me the experience I need.
    Celine | http://www.optiko.ca/en/what_is_an_optometrist.html

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  2. Thanks for commenting!! The best way to find an internship (that is potentially paid!) is to connect through your college's pre-med advisor. They will have a list of alumni or area doctors that frequently offer internships to students, and it is the easiest way to get such a position set up. If your college doesn't have something already in place, then I would reach out to doctors that practice close by the school. It may be hard to find paid work depending on the hours you can offer, but they will be happy to start you out shadowing or just doing odd jobs around the office. Spending time in an OD's office is invaluable to know if optometry is the career for you -- and it will give you a definite leg up during the interview process at optometry schools!

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