Doctors, this column is not for you. It is written entirely for your staff, your team, your posse…whatever you call them. You know, the ones who work relentlessly and against all odds to make you seem intelligent.
Now that I have your attention, miracle workers, let’s get to it. You never fail to make us doctors look good, so I’d like to return the favor with some advice:
1. Never use any form of the word, “cancel.” “Your four o’clock cancelled,” immediately causes acute anxiety and depression in all doctors, and this black hole is not one that a little CBD can fix. From now on, the word is, “postpone.” “Your four o’clock postponed,” offers hope, and that is affirming.
2. Never say to a doctor, “Your last patient is ready.” This insinuates that the doctor has a life-threatening illness or, even worse, the feds are at the door, ready to lock them up forever. Instead, clarify that the doctor’s last patient of the day is ready. The worst-case scenario is that Happy Hour is pushed back 30 minutes. Death and jail time are no longer part of the conversation.
3. Always tell a doctor if his fly is unzipped, he has crumbs in his mustache, etc. He needs to look doctor-ish, and it’s your job to be his mom.
4. Avoid the impulse to tell a doctor that their upcoming patient is grumpy, rude or otherwise annoying. You know how it goes. These patients treat the staff like frog muck, but as soon as the doctor walks in, they are all rose petals and giggles. The doctor would look at you like you are an idiot if you were to describe this lovely patient as a grouch.
5. Please wear your mask properly. If it’s too big and saggy, get one that fits. Patients don’t usually care if you correct their vision, but they will definitely leave a bad review if your nose is hanging out of your mask.
6. If one of your tools doesn’t work for some reason, do not tell the patient that one of your tools doesn’t work for some reason. Just smile and act like it is perfectly normal that you made them sit for 10 minutes watching you crawl around on the floor trying to plug the damn thing in.
7. No matter what the patient asks, do not respond. Just tell them the doctor will answer all of their questions. The only exception is when the patient asks if the doctor is a good one. The appropriate response is, “Of course. Our doctor is wonderful!”
8. Please make sure all of the equipment in the exam room is ready for use. Remember, the doctor has no clue how to turn it on. If you think a neurosurgeon knows how to turn on the MRI machine, guess again.
9. Leave your crazy life at home. Everyone is stressed. Everyone had a fight with their significant other. Everyone else wishes they actually had a significant other. Don’t bring that stuff into the office. When you walk through the door, be present so that (a) your day is better, (b) everyone you meet has a better day and (c) you are employed longer.
10. If a patient comes in with a caregiver, ask the name of the person in charge and make sure you know how they are related to the patient. The mom? The son? The nurse? The bookie? At times, they will turn out to be someone the doctor saw last week for their own eye exam, and you may feel embarrassed you asked, but better you than the doctor! Trust me on this, and you will become way more valuable to the doctor and the practice. Also, bringing donuts doesn’t hurt either.
11. Don’t ever, ever expect a bonus. Live like you will never get one. That way, it’s not budgeted as part of your car payment. You know, the car that will be repossessed unless you get a bonus? Bonuses are not guaranteed. Don’t rely on them to make ends meet, but appreciate them if they do come your way. Say something like, “Thank you!” rather than, “I thought it would be more.”
12. Doctors aren’t rich. Rich people don’t have to work. Whatever income a doctor makes is a result of them working their rear off to get educated and then spending sleepless nights building their business with their own sweat equity. If you’re jealous of what a doctor makes, go become one yourself. One of my staffers recently said to me, “Must be nice not to have to work on Saturdays!” I explained they too could have Saturdays off. All they had to do is get their Doctor of Optometry degree, attain their license and successfully practice for 41 years. Simple!
OK, time to get back to work. And thank you for all you do!
Dr. Vickers received his optometry degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1979 and was clinical director at Vision Associates in St. Albans, WV, for 36 years. He is now in private practice in Dallas, where he continues to practice full-scope optometry. He has no financial interests to disclose.