By Jonathan Winnegrad, ABO-AC, NCLE-AC

My relationship with Barbara, an optician, consists primarily of me listening to her complain and gripe about her toxic romantic relationship with her partner, Stan. Barbara, a talented optician with a wonderful personality, has lately been a Negative Nellie and less chipper than she previously had been. In fact, you would never know how much Barbara, a tenured and licensed optician, loves eye care if you were to work with her. Instead, you would be certain to hear about how Stan does not appreciate her, respect her, or treat her well.

Things have not always been that way. Barbara used to think that she was going to change the world, one patient at a time. She dreamed of adding a new level of professionalism and respectability to the field of opticianry. As of late, all Barbara does is complain about the people she has to help. The customers are almost as unappreciative as Stan! The customers (she used to call them patients) are almost as demanding as Stan.

One day things at work came to a head, and I had as much of Barbara’s attitude as I could take. I asked Barbara why she even bothered coming to work if she was just going to bash Stan as much in the office as she did on social media. Barbara started crying and apologized, expressing that she had not always been so bitter. Stan was making her miserable! Stan did not appreciate her, took her for granted, talked down to her, had let himself go. Surely Barbara could do better. She was convinced that if Stan could do better, he would drop her in a heartbeat.

I inquired of Barbara as to why she stayed with her partner. Barbara informed me that she stayed because she had been with Stan for eight years. She could not give up eight years of her life to start over with somebody else. She felt this way even though she knew she would surely lead a much healthier, happier, and fulfilling life without him.

I have a confession to make.... There is no Barbara, and this story is an allegory for opticians who stay in toxic work environments, constantly griping and complaining, rather than having the fortitude, courage, and self-worth to make a change. We are in a free-market economy where we are empowered much more than in any previous system to make a change if we are not being treated with dignity, respect, and appreciation.

It seems as though all of the eye care socials are chock full of opticians who are miserable in their daily grind. I have been blessed to work for some great people in my eye care career. That has not always been the case for many of my treasured friends and colleagues. If you are in eye care and miserable, it is time to come up with a game plan to lead a healthier and happier life. A pencil and a notebook (or heck a pen and a napkin) are invaluable tools for being your best you.

Ask yourself some probing questions. Am I burnt out on eye care or is it just my particular situation? Can I make things better where I am at, or do I need to move on? Where would I go? If it is time to move on, do not quit before you have your next opportunity lined up. Make finding your next full-time job your temporary part-time job. What type of practice do you want to work for? What type of culture, boss, and colleagues? If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.

Hopefully, you find yourself reading this fulfilled, appreciated, and challenged. If not, I believe in you to take charge of your ship in the tempest of the storm. Please do not let a bad situation shade your view of eye care, opticianry, or patient care.