• Practice Perfect

    Ophthalmic Technicians, Part 3: How to Hire Exceptional Pediatrics Support Staff

    By Brad S. Henriksen, MD

    Download PDF

    Earlier this year, EyeNet shared tips on recruiting technicians (May), as well as training and retaining them (June). This month, the focus is on hiring the pediatric tech.

    Look for Five Key Traits

    Look for job applicants who are eager to learn and who exhibit the following traits.

    1. Enjoys working with kids. A gen­uine interest in working with children is indispensable for a good pediatric technician. At times, children can be funny and cute; at other times, scared and upset. Someone who loves working with kids will be able to appreciate the situation and adapt without feeling overwhelmed. Previous experience working with children, whether in health care or another setting, is a big plus.  
    2. Loves to have fun. I recently asked a new hire to hold a toy at the end of the room and bark like a dog. The tech­nician, thinking that I was joking, met my request with a blank stare. I quickly picked up the toy and demonstrated barking and other animal sounds, as a means to gain a child’s attention. This may not come naturally to everyone, but if staff are willing to get out of their comfort zone, these distraction techniques can go a long way toward helping children feel comfortable.
    3. Projects a calming presence. An eye exam can be anxiety-provoking for children. A technician with a gentle and calming demeanor can often make a child feel more comfortable, and this can help them to be more coopera­tive during the exam. When placing eyedrops or obtaining clinical mea­surements, a gentle approach will be better tolerated by the child and much appreciated by the parents.
    4. Looks for the creative solution. With adult patients, many technicians follow the same routine when they obtain the history and perform the preliminary exam. With children, how­ever, creativity and flexibility are often required to obtain the needed informa­tion. Some kids may need to start with an exam right away or play games for vision testing, while others may need to sit with parents for a few minutes while a history is being taken.  
    5. Takes the initiative. Fully engaged technicians play a crucial role on a well-functioning pediatric ophthalmol­ogy team. Because so much of the clinic flow and patient experience falls to the role of technicians, it is essential that technicians be willing to actively look for ways to improve efficiency.

    Training Your New Tech

    In our practice, all new technicians receive training in the pediatric clinic regardless of their final clinic designa­tion. This training includes didactic sessions, exam practice with peers, and pediatric clinical rotations. Adequate cross-training for all technicians enables our practice to provide competent coverage when our core technicians are unavailable. Our pediatric physicians periodically review the didactic edu­cation and provide feedback for new technicians who are rotating through the clinic. 

    Retaining Your Techs

    Retaining a good technician depends on multiple factors, including providing support and opportunities for growth. Support means listening to and addressing their concerns, and treating them equitably with their peers. Growth opportunities can include pursuing certifications, continuing education, and taking on training or management responsibilities. The goal is to provide the job satisfaction and fulfillment that will lead to retention.

    ___________________________

    Dr. Henriksen is a pediatric ophthalmologist at Excel Eye Center in Provo, Utah. Financial disclosures: None.

    More at AAO 2021

    Technician-Related Courses

    When you are at AAO 2021, you can attend the following in-person courses.

    Life in the Exam Lane: Your 2022 Scribe/Tech Survival Guide (event code 211). In-person only. Senior instructor: Sue J. Vicchrilli, COT, OCS, OCSR. When: Satur­day, Nov. 13, 9:45-11:00 p.m. Where: Room 211-213.

    Regulatory Compliance Competencies for the Ophthalmic Technician (230). In-person only. Senior instructor: Joy Woodke, COE, OCS, OCSR. When: Satur­day, Nov. 13, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Where: Room 211-213.

    Coding Compliance Begins in the Exam Lane (249). In-person only. Senior instructor: Sue J. Vicchrilli, COT, OCS, OCSR. When: Saturday, Nov. 13, 2:00-3:15 p.m. Where: Room 211-213.

    The Surprising Ways Everyone Touches the Billing Process (411). In-person only. Senior instructor: Lindsay S. Stratton, MHA, OCS. When: Saturday, Nov. 13, 2:00-3:15 p.m. Where: Room 208-210.

    HR-Related Course

    The following in-person and on-demand instruction courses focus on human resources (HR) issues and support staff. (Other courses discuss how HR issues apply to physicians.)

    The Five Essential Elements to Onboarding (412V). On-demand only. Senior instructor: Elizabeth Monroe, MA. When: On demand. Where: Virtual.

    Human Resources: Minimizing Legal Risk (270). In-person only. Senior instruc­tor: Robert E. Wiggins, MD, MHA. When: Saturday, Nov. 13, 3:45-5:00 p.m. Where: Room 208-210.

    Diversity and Inclusion in the Ophthalmic Practice (272). In-person only. Senior instructor: Patricia Morris, MBA, COE. When: Saturday, Nov. 13, 3:45-5:00 p.m. Where: Room 211-213.

    Creative Compensation Models for Support Staff (413). In-person and on-de­mand. Senior instructor: Benjamin M. Higginbotham. When: Sunday, Nov. 14, 9:45-11:00 a.m. Where: Room 206-207.

    Employee Recruitment and Retention Strategies That Champion Diversity (463). In-person only. Senior instructor: Aimee Greeter. When: Sunday, Nov. 14, 3:45-5:00 p.m. Where: Room 214.

    For the most current information on times and locations, see the Mobile Meet­ing Guide at aao.org/mobile.

    Online Resources

    See the new pediatrics page. The new practice management page for pediatric ophthalmol­ogy includes further advice on techs (aao.org/pm-pediatrics).

    Use the Ophthalmology Job Center. Advertise online (ophthjobs.aao.org).

    Join the discussion at AAOE-Talk. AAOE members can crowdsource advice on techni­cian-related issues at aao.org/practice-management/listserv).