The kids are back in school now, and they’re learning new things every day. In that spirit, I’d like to ask the question - When was the last time you learned something new? Or better yet, when was the last time you taught someone something new?

We all know what it is like to get trapped in the daily grind of the optical world. Helping patients find new glasses, adjusting frames, checking in new orders, and deciding which products to order. Next patient, please. So, what can you do today to shake things up, and why should you want to?

Your Patient Knows

If you feel yourself going through the motions, please be advised that your patient knows and understands that they are not your number one priority right at that moment. While this might be entirely true, please never let your patient feel like they are an inconvenience or that you are too busy to help them in their time of need. Remember, the patient is, and always will be, your boss - the purchase of their eyewear pays your wages - so we do need to be fully present with them. But better than being present is being engaged and willing to educate your patient on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

You might ask why it is important to educate your patient on these details, here’s why. Because it reaffirms that your patient chose to come to a professional, but also by looking at yourself as an educator, it reaffirms in your mind the things you do know and makes you think of other things you either don’t know or would like to know more about. This encourages you to step up your optical game.

Teach as Often as Possible

Often we get into the practice of just fixing the things that need fixed, making the adjustment the patient needs and making small talk while doing it. Imagine if we took the time to teach the patient about what we’re doing and why they might need the adjustment in the first place. For instance, when that patient comes in with their left lens closer to their face than the right lens and you can see that the left temple is flaring out and as the patient sat down to talk to you they took the glasses off with their right hand only. If we take the time at this point to say, “Mr. Smith, I see we need to bring that left temple back into alignment which will move the left lens away from your face bringing it even with the right lens. You don’t happen to always take your glasses off with your right hand, do you?” Imagine the astonishment as Mr. Smith thinks about your question and says, “Actually, I do take my glasses off that way. Do you believe that this is what caused them to get so out of whack?”

When we take the time to teach our patients about how to care for their glasses, not only does it reinforce to them that they purchased a product that shouldn’t be mistreated, it also creates value in the knowledge and skills we have as Opticians. Neither of these things should be overlooked.

Teaching also can happen in the midst of our co-workers. When you find the best way to adjust that tricky frame that doesn’t have a core to help create a temple bend and you share that information with your co-workers, imagine what goodwill that can create. Instead of letting them struggle with something that can be hard, just giving a heads-up tip can create some goodwill with the people you spend a good deal of time with in the course of your work week. This doesn’t have to only be regarding adjustments; it can include lenses you’ve found to have a “wow” factor for your patients, or even frame features that can be helpful in specific settings. The more information you can share, or teach, the more it keeps you looking for more details to share. Again, this establishes you as an expert and we should all be trying to be the best Opticians we have the potential to be. Your patient deserves for you to be your best.

Take The Time

Often the reason we don’t explain those nuance adjustments to our patients is because it takes time. But, remember that spending time and educating the patient properly may pay time dividends in the future. Not sure what I mean? Mr. Smith (from before) didn’t realize that he was actually causing the frame to get out of alignment. Now he understands that if he uses two hands to take the glasses on and off that he may not need to come in and see you as frequently. The same can be said for lens selection and dispensing. Imagine if you take the extra 10 minutes to work with your first time progressive lens patient and show them how to adapt to this new lens design, how they work, and how they won’t and ensure that they are comfortable in the lenses prior to sending them out into the world. This will save follow up questions when your patient comes in and says, “Why is it when I look out the bottom of my lenses at my feet that they are blurry?” These issues can be addressed before the patient even experiences them if you take the time to teach them about the product they purchased.

Teachers Rule

It is easy to appreciate all of the teachers of the world as everyone is going back to school, but remember that not all teachers work in schools. Some of the best ones walk among us in our practices every day. Remember that being a teacher in your own world is easy and beneficial too.

Johnna Dukes, ABOC is currently the owner and operator of an optical boutique, with experience in both the private practice sector as well as the retail chain setting. She has a wide range of experience varying from optical support staff to dispensary management to practice ownership. She lives in Okoboji, Iowa.