As a resident, you work side by side with ophthalmologists each and every day.
But if you’re going to provide team-based eye care down the road, you need to collaborate with each member of the team, including optometrists. So how can you best incorporate them into your clinic while also maintaining their proper scope of practice?
Three experts share the steps you can take – whether you’re in private practice or at an academic institution.
They include Sidney K. Gicheru, MD, a cataract specialist at the LaserCare Eye Center in Dallas, Sayoko E. Moroi, MD, a professor at the W. K. Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, Academy past president and chair of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.
- Welcome optometrists to the team.
“The age of baby boomers is increasing, and we’re getting close to the point where there aren’t enough physicians to meet patient demand,” said Dr. Gicheru.
“So consider having optometrists work as your physician extenders. This will allow you to be more efficient and more focused on the clinical tasks at hand. Welcome them to the team, but remember, as the ophthalmologist, you’re the leader of that team.”
- Be clear about their areas of practice.
“Make your intentions known from the very beginning,” said Dr. Sternberg. “When you interview an optometrist for an opening, explain to them that you’re an ophthalmology practice, and although you want them to work with you, the position doesn’t involve expanding scope of practice whatsoever.
"In my experience, there are a lot of optometrists who are fine with that type of agreement and who are happy to work alongside you in a professional and collegial setting.”
- Invest time in the relationship.
“When employing an optometrist, you need to make sure they are not only of the highest quality, but also on the same page as you and your practice,” said Dr. Moroi. “For example, I ended up taking on an optometrist and having them complete a six-month mini-fellowship alongside me.
"In order to prepare them for having their own independent clinics, the two of us did a group clinic on the same days and post-rounded the same patients. It also always helps to make yourself 100 percent available for any patient questions the optometrist might have.”
- Encourage their education – within reason.
“Like all of us, the optometric community is eager to learn more and improve their level of expertise,” said Dr. Sternberg. “But there is a fine line, because you want to make sure you’re providing education only within their scope of practice.
"For example, whereas it might be appropriate to discuss complications about medications, you’ll want to avoid conversing about laser techniques and advancements in surgery. Those are the lines you don’t want to cross.
"To set the right path, invite them to attend any appropriate continuing education courses that your institution or state ophthalmology society provides. Education is positive.”
Recorded during the AAO 2018 YO Program, this video features Academy experts Sidney K. Gicheru, MD, a cataract specialist at the LaserCare Eye Center in Dallas, Sayoko E. Moroi, MD, a professor at the W. K. Kellogg Eye Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, Academy past president and chair of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute. They share their strategies on leading an eye care team.