Insight into the Career of Optometry For Students, Young ODs and ECP’s Considering Optometry as a Career…

If you are questioning your decision to choose Optometry as your career, have had second thoughts or experienced anxiety because of comments you’ve seen posted in “ODs on Facebook”, I’m going to tell you the non-sugar coated real deal. On the most basic level when purusing the community it’s important to understand part of the community’s value is the ability to connect with people who have similar work experiences – in such a community venting naturally happens. It’s a very important part of “community” and it’s important to take this “venting” with a grain of salt.

Firstly, people use this community to share frustrations AND successes, but frustrations are shared more frequently and appear much louder in social media. The ability to have somewhere to vent has value to people and in some ways is a healthy outlet. Think how likely someone is to post a negative review on Yelp as opposed to a positive review and it’s even more likely for you to read a negative review before a positive one. Also, people see the world through different “prisms” (pun intended). There are “glass-is-half-empty members” and “glass-is-half-full” people in our community and the “glass-is-half-empty” crew is more vocal as discussed above. Remember also the “glass-is-half-empty” crew engage the same way no matter what career they chose and generally in a similar way when discussing many other subjects. If they were Podiatrists, they’d be bitching in a Podiatry community; check out threads on Reddit where physicians engage in the same manner as our ECPs do …. Unless you don’t like helping people see, retain their ocular health, refracting or sitting in a dark room shining bright lights in people’s eyes the problem is not the profession of Optometry .

Secondly, no matter what career you choose, someone out there is always trying to take a piece of your pie. If you are an employed OD, market forces might not be your concern but you have other challenges; you might have to deal with office, hospital or organizational politics to advance your career, you might have to move to find the right work situation, etc. If you are a business owner market forces might appear insurmountable or at least make you think the grass is greener in another profession. Trust me, it’s an illusion. Every small business owner has to fight to keep and grow their piece of the pie. Throughout my career growing an Optometry practice from one doctor/one employee into 4 ODs, 1 MD and 20 staff I’ve been faced with competition; competition from other ODs, from retail entities, even nuanced competition from some of the companies I partner with (vision insurance companies specifically). Successful entrepreneurs take a step back, look at the market situation and find a creative way to use their education, smarts, training and degree to maintain and grow their market share. It isn’t hard to do; it takes time, knowledge and drive to push your career forward no matter what career you choose. These are what I like to call “first world problems”.

This is the reality of having a career in Optometry, or in any field for that matter. Yes, Optometry has challenges. You can choose to take the “woe is me, bury-your–business-head-in-the-sand” attitude, or you can choose to take the “warning – business challenge ahead, take a step back and use the intellectual brain (not the emotional brain), think the market situation through then create and execute a plan to move the professional career forward in a positive, productive and profitable direction” attitude. There are those who fight forces who are out to take a piece of their pie; those who don’t just complain about vision plans but take a bold move to lessen their dependence on them by negotiating fees or dumping them altogether (Check out Al Cleinman’s courses on exiting vision plans –no commercial interest). There are OD leaders who fight to advance their profession on the state and/or national level; in my state of Maryland we really banded together to fight Ophthalmology after years and years of them actively trying to keep us back; this year we won the battle to expand the scope of practice. There are those who support the national organization, the AOA because they know that without a strong national organization the profession is doomed, then there are those who complain and ride the coat-tails of those who blaze the trail we all benefit from. Then there are those ODs who take a financial risk (or political risk), open practices even with searing student debt and move the needle with sacrifice to achieve their dreams, letting nothing stand in their way. No matter what profession you choose, you have the best education to live your best life – choose your prism wisely.