PROPERLY training new members of your staff is key in ensuring your practice operates smoothly. The basis for proper training is having training materials and a step-by-step process for getting a new employee ready to provide outstanding customer service. Your training manual should introduce a new staff member to your mission statement and discuss the values that are important to your practice and the driving force behind everything they do at work.

Get everyone on the same page by starting with the basics. Provide trainees with information about the practice history, the differences be-tween opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists, and the areas of specialization in your practice. Certain information such as office hours, fax number, office Web site, and insurance accepted needs to be readily available at their fingertips. It looks unprofessional and staff will feel foolish if they can’t provide these facts in an instant to an inquiring patient. In addition, they should be familiar with certain details such as if your practice co-manages LASIK, treats glaucoma, or offers vision therapy.

Procedure manuals need to exist for every department in the office. This greatly improves the proficiency of training a new employee in a short time and serves as a reference guide for established staff members to find essential info. By training from a written manual, key information is not diluted and errors are not passed on as one person incorrectly trains the next. A checklist format is helpful for monitoring when a skill has been learned and then mastered.

Most offices begin training new staff by having them follow around a senior member of the staff. They will benefit from observing the doctor and what the patient experiences during a visit. Consider having a new staff member begin training by sitting in on a few eye exams to observe what it is that the optometrist is doing. Let her observe how the doctor uses the data the technicians collect. Have her listen to discussions of contact lenses and glasses with patients.

Test your staff at regular intervals to ensure they are knowledgeable. Acquiring new equipment or changing procedures in the office means the appropriate manual should be reviewed and updated.

Finally, don’t overlook the importance of scheduling time for staff to be trained. It’s not always realistic for new staff members to be practicing their skills on patients when you’re trying to stay on schedule. A period of time should be reserved for them to practice new tasks, just as we spent time learning our own optometric skills.


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