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  • An Expert Trainer’s Advice for Finding Great Technicians

    Jane Shuman discusses the greatest obstacle to recruiting, training and retaining qualified technicians, plus her pearls for hiring great staff.

    AAOE: What is the greatest obstacle to recruiting, training and retaining qualified technicians?

    Shuman: I have seen wage wars in metropolitan areas. Once trained, a competitor may offer a higher hourly wage or benefits you cannot match. More rural areas often lack qualified personnel. I also think we are seeing generational differences. Once hired, the stereotypical millennial may not have the work ethic the employer expects. That said, many young people entering the work force bring a desire to learn and follow the policies of the practice. That takes structured training and clear communication.

    Practices don’t always communicate the expectation that a new hire’s career track will take time to develop nor the fact that it this career offers multiple options, once one is fully trained. Employers must communicate that this is a complex field with a lot of responsibility. While new staff may feel that they are “picked upon,” you have to help them see that all comments are meant as constructive criticism and to develop their ability to think about the patient in the chair.

    What pearls do you have those looking to hire their next technician?

    Consider people who are currently in other positions in the office. This may include people in the call center, reception or billing staffs. You can give them gradual training, starting with visual field tests or automated tasks.

    Maintain an open application policy and keep the job posted on the practice website as well as other eye care job boards. This allows the practice to hire from a position of strength instead of hiring a “warm body.” I have found that any body is sometimes less beneficial than no body.

    Keep your options open. You don’t have to hire people with medical experience. If you hire the “right person,” you can teach him or her the skills. The hospitality and retail industries often have people with excellent customer service skills and may be interested in learning a new skill set with more desirable hours.

    What motivates you to help other practices improve their training?

    Many of the techs and scribes I have trained have remained with their practices years later. Many of them have earned certification at least at the COA level. Those who have moved on to another practice often remain in the field for years. It is exciting for me to see their enthusiasm grow as they become confident in their skills.

    Teaching refraction can be very challenging and also very rewarding. The manual phoropter can appear quite intimidating to the new refractionist, so I break that down into its most simple, relevant parts. Explaining its construction, how it works and the application of optics and refractive error removes some of the mystery surrounding the phoropter.

    Although I generally teach the foundation of skills prior to offering hands on training, refraction is different. In this case I teach the process first. Ultimately, the tech will put the pieces together and understand why they achieve the end result that they get.

    We’ll talk about all this more in detail during the webinar on Oct. 10.

    Plan to attend Recruit, Train and Retain Qualified Technicians. Practices all over the country are struggling to recruit and retain qualified technicians. A winning strategy to overcome this challenge requires an effective training and retention program. This 60-minute webinar, technician training expert, Jane Shuman and practice administrator, Joy Woodke will help you develop consistent and effective tools that produce highly skilled professionals, leading to increase profitability and improved quality of care.

    Live Webinar: Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017
    2 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. CT / Noon MT / 11 a.m. PT

    Note: Webinar recording will be available to all attendees at no additional charge.

    About the Author

    Jane T. Shuman, MSM, COT, COE, OCS, CMSS, a member of the Academy's Consultant Directory and president and founder of Eyetechs, Inc., is a nationally recognized authority on clinical flow, scheduling and technician education. She worked in a high volume ophthalmology practice for over fifteen years and founded Eyetechs Inc. in 1999.