Hi, my name is Erika and you have absolutely no clue who I am. I did, however, use to work at Brill Eye Center as a tech and thought that giving my perspective as an outsider could help you see what I saw…because, you know…sometimes our blinders are on when we’re used to what we do. I like to think of myself as a highly attentive person that pays attention to the details, so I hope I can give you some useful insight. Through my short time in private practice, I took note of just how crucial the tech position is in any eye care practice. Oh, and if you don’t have one…my only question for you is, why the heck not?
Becoming a Tech Is Fun!
I have had an interesting career path and most of it has been in the culinary industry (that’s my true craft), but I always wondered deep down what it would be like to be a doctor. I used to be enthralled by shows like “Inside The ER” and loved watching live surgeries. My mother has also been a nurse her whole life and encouraged me to look into it so I wasn’t left wondering “what if” my whole life.
The process of becoming a tech was a fun experience for me, as I always found going to the eye doctor fascinating as a kid. I thought the people who took my visual acuities were so cool and official as if they were just going to whip out a badge like an FBI agent when someone asks for proof. For those wondering what made me get a position as a tech…well, let me enlighten you.
The Job Hunt
I looked around for job positions in the medical field and found that pretty much any entry-level position required some sort of certification or education. That was an issue for me. It wasn’t an issue for me because I don’t like learning…I love learning, but it wasn’t an applicable decision to make at the moment. My bills weren’t saying, “it’s okay Erika, you can go to school, we’ve got your back.” At the time I was catering and the gigs were only becoming more and more scarce. I needed a job ASAP. I found Brill Eye Center job listing for tech on Indeed and saw they didn’t require experience. I was shocked. It was the perfect – in. This wasn’t just a job for me, it was to see if this was going to be a career path I was going to take.
I showed up for my interview in dark blue Levi’s and a button-up dress shirt that had fishies on it. What I was thinking, I don’t know LOL. Oh not to mention, I just had surgery and was wearing a boot on my ankle. Well, thankfully my personality made an impression and they decided to give me a chance, thanks, Dr Brill and Perry!
Committing Yourself To Learning The Tech Role
I took my position very seriously and wrote every single thing down during training. I made a couple of hundred flashcards on abbreviations for common terms to know while scribing. I studied all the eye drops, medications, common diseases, contact lens brands and the list goes on. I even bought a book on the anatomy of the eyeball and learned every part of the eye. I went home after work, studied relentlessly and went to work the next day hoping I could apply something new I learned. I just wanted to do a good job and show that I cared.
I caught on rather quickly and before I knew it, I was taking patients back to the exam room myself. I took their Optomap photo, measured their IOP, utilized the autorefractor, analyzed their glasses with the automated lensometer. I then took the patient back to the room to collect their medical history and concluded with taking their visual acuities. I was getting the hang of things and felt confident. I could talk to the patients as if I actually knew what I was talking about (and by golly, I kinda did). Id’ write a quick summary on the patients including any medical changes and little facts I picked up for Dr Brill. Before we even went back into the room, he knew who the patient was, knew if they got a new job, knew if there was a baby on the way and other little things that would impress that patient just by bringing it up. It shows the patient the attention to detail the doctor and employees have. It will make them feel like they are not just a number on the schedule you are trying to burn through when you make personal conversation about things that they didn’t even directly tell you. I could always tell by their faces how impressed they were when Dr Brill went the extra mile to make them feel important. Their faces just beamed with a genuine smile.
**Side note, these are the subtle nuances that separate a good doctor from a great doctor, I hope you’re taking notes**
Why do eye doctors need a scribe?
I found that scribing is insanely important for a smooth-flowing practice. To the doctors out there who say they can type faster themselves or who have their own system down and don’t need a scribe. Please hear me out, YOU NEED A SCRIBE. Okay, okay, fine…you can argue that you don’t absolutely need a scribe to get through your day…but do you care about improving your practice, giving your patients the highest care and increasing your profitability? Well If you don’t care, then I guess you’re fine to carry on without your scribe.
So, back to what I was saying. If you are the doctor that says they don’t need one because you’re efficient and quick by yourself, imagine how much quicker and more efficient you can be with another hand doing the metontinous work for you while you give your patient more face-to-face attention. Make your patients feel special by paying attention to ONLY them and not sharing your time between them and the computer screen. Want to know how to gain more loyal, lifetime patients? Make them feel like they are your only concern for the whole day.
Scribing creates a methodical repeatable system in the exam room
Something that amazed me while scribing for Dr Brill was how methodical our whole system was. He knew exactly what information I needed from him and when, and would discreetly say it out loud as I continue to type and make notes. I learned his moves and he learned mine. When the refraction was completed, he would swivel his chair over to the patient, bring the phoropter in front of their face, assist them where to place their chin and that was my cue to smoothly turn the lights off for him. Every time…it was a flawless transition into assessing the macula, checking for glaucoma, cataracts, viewing the lid margins for dry eye, other bacterial build up like blepharitis or things such as pinguiculas, chalazion, floaters etc.
TRUST ME!!! You need a scribe so you and your tech can become a strong duo. So strong that the patient won’t even realize everything that’s going on and that’s the point.
If you took me out of the equation and Dr Brill was left in the exam room alone, what would this mean for his patients and for the rest of his day? It’s not that he can’t do everything I did by himself. He most certainly can. But would that be smart and proactive with his time? No. Not at all. It’s not that he can’t talk to his patient while he types. But it increases the probability of some form of neglect. Whether it’s a small error while typing as you’re trying to multitask talking to your patient, or you’re focusing more on what you’re typing and your patient can tell you’re half-a$$ing the conversation. Maybe you don’t talk to the patient at all while you type and then it felt like another doctor visit to them where they were just a number to you. Maybe you got all your notes done, and still gave the patient a solid conversation and now it’s cutting into your other exams. NONE OF THESE OPTIONS IS GOOD, and no you are not perfect enough to do it all flawlessly yourself, sorry.
I remember going back into the room with Dr. Brill for the second part of the exam, how he would just start a conversation with the patient and make them feel like he was their friend. I used to think he was maybe a little too friendly and didn’t cut to business quick enough, but my mind frame was stuck in the fast-paced restaurant mentality “get in and get out.” Then he explained many times to me why it’s important that he does that. It’s important because establishing patient rapport is just as important as the exam. It’s a whole process. You’re not just charging these patients top dollar for an exam and to tell them they need glasses, you’re charging these patients top dollar to be their friend and show them that you care about them. And that when you’re in the exam room with them, nothing else matters. THAT is how you build a faithful patient base, get 5-star reviews on Google My Business and increase the profitability of your practice/optical.
When you have a tech, you have a right-hand woman/man
Still not grasping the importance of a tech? Okay, how about this. When you have a tech, you have a right-hand woman/man. You have someone that is there to help you succeed; to make your life easier. Someone that doesn’t need to be watched over and counted on to do their job and to help you do yours. Yes, I will admit that it is hard to find a GOOD tech, but when you do, pay them well so they will never leave. The few extra dollars an hour does not compare to the tens of thousands of extra dollars you will be making not wasting time doing simple things your tech can do in half the time. You can fit more patients in your schedule and you can give each patient a more memorable and personalized experience.
Should you be hesitant if someone applying for a tech position has no experience? NO! Absolutely not (that was me!). I can assume why you would be though, “oh, it’s going to take forever to teach them…the other techs are going to be annoyed…the exam rooms are gonna be crowded during the training phase”…blah, blah, blah, ahem pardon me.
These are actually excuses. Hiring someone with no tech experience is actually better because they haven’t been brainwashed by bad technique. Humans have brains, we have the ability to learn! We just need the right tools to learn effectively and efficiently. When you do find a tech that you can tell has potential but has no experience, how do you train them to be the best they can be?
How to train a super-tech from scratch
From my perspective, hopefully, you get someone who cares enough to WANT to do a good job and goes home to study. My best advice is, give your techs homework. Make them feel back in school because if you don’t, they are going to take anywhere from 2x, 3x, 4x longer to learn the material on-the-job. Quiz them every day. Not with a piece of paper and a pencil, but put them on the spot with common knowledge questions that they should be picking up by now, like “How do you know how to pick out a toric CL” or “What are some signs to look for on the Optic Nerve that show someone could have glaucoma?” If they don’t know it, don’t shame them, use it as an opportunity to teach them. Ask them the same question again later in the day and I bet you they will remember it. I don’t recommend rapid-firing questions to your nervous tech who is still trying to catch on. But rather, take opportunities during an exam to teach them something.
One of the many things I appreciated about Dr. Brill, was when he took opportunities to teach me something in the exam room. He wasn’t bothered that the patient was in the room, but rather said a quick, “Erika is still learning and I like to teach her new things when something unique comes up.” The patients actually love it because they get to learn something new too and hear cool behind-the-scenes medical terminology. Take your techs under your wings and teach them the ropes. They are only as good as you allow them to be. Teach them, quiz them, give them more responsibility, allow them to shine.
I know I’m just a nobody used-to-be tech. But I can tell you I’m qualified to write this blog merely on my level of passion in life. If my experience as a tech can give you a different perspective from someone who knew nothing about eye care, to an inside look on why I found a tech position is a winning piece of the puzzle, then I think we accomplished something here. You may or may not have heard of me, heard from me or seen me in some of Perry’s eyecare endeavors, but I am still in eyecare. I work alongside Perry in his consulting business Eye Rock It and I will continue to learn and spread useful knowledge as an outsider. Now, what are you waiting on? Go get yourself a scribing tech!