The world of optometry has changed beyond all recognition in the last 30 years with the emergence and growth of the multiple sector and the ever more sophisticated range of clinical testing equipment that is available. Against this backdrop, a vibrant independent sector still holds a substantial High Street presence and provides an important option for patients based on clinical excellence. It also offers a very different career path for newly qualified Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians. So - is a job in an Independent practice the right option for you? See how you stack up against some of the following criteria!
Independent in mind and behaviour
For a start the clue is in the name! Independents are just that, independent in the way that they think and behave. They do not like corporate structures and rules that dictate how they should interact with the people they treat and their colleagues in the workplace. Independents like to be able to shape their own destiny and the great majority of people entering the sector ultimately want to own part or all of their own practice. If you are independent of mind and don't like the idea of corporate targets and strictures then an Independent practice may be the right option for you. But there are other considerations!
Think 'patient' not 'consumer'
Independents talk about patients and not consumers and this tells a story. They are interested in delivering clinical excellence and ensuring long term eye health for the people they treat. Often they will 'know' their patients from many years of consultations and hold an in depth record of their clinical history not just on file - but in their heads! They care about the people they treat. In fact many patients become long term friends! Is this the sort of working life that appeals to you?
Think long term and be ambitious
Most independents are passionate about their sector and they believe they offer the best eye care option on the High Street. They want to see the sector continue to flourish and to offer the choice of clinical excellence for their patients. Many are looking for people to succeed them into ownership of their practices when the time comes for them to enjoy their retirement. They will welcome people who have similar ambitions to the ones that they had when they entered into practice. If owning your own practice is an ambition then the Independent sector is the only option for you.
Be prepared for hard work!
Whilst independents are not subject to corporate targets they still work very hard, often put in long hours and of course have all the tasks that go along with running a business to deal with. They do this willingly because of the passion they have for what they do and because it is a vocation for them. People with ambition should know that achievement only comes with hard work – are you really ambitious?!
Have a thirst for knowledge
Independents are at the forefront of new treatments and normally the pioneers with new technology. They are constantly looking for new and better ways to provide the best possible health care for their patients. Just meeting CET requirements will not cut it with most independents - they also want to see the same thirst for knowledge from their people that they have themselves. If you have a thirst for learning and knowledge then you should fit in with the Independent culture.
Seek fulfilment through your work
Most independents love what they do. It is not just a job but a vocation. It all fits in with their passion for the sector and their willingness to work hard. If you are of the same mindset and truly see your profession as a vocation then you should fit in with the Independent sector.
Be flexible and be a 'team' player
Many independent practices are small and therefore everyone working in the practice whether owner or employee needs to work closely together, be flexible and get on with each other day to day. The size of the team does not matter it is the commitment to be there for others that does matter. Can you work effectively as part of a team?
Independent practice offers a fulfilling and rewarding career path for those that have ambition and can understand and fit in with the Independent culture. The vibrancy comes from the people in the sector and their passion for what they do. Whilst it may not be the right career path for all, it is for those that match up with the criteria above
To keep tabs on the Independent Sector, why not join the Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO). The AIO welcomes student members as well as offering a discounted membership structure for newly qualified Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians. The AIO is the only professional body that exclusively represents the independent sector. To learn more and to apply for membership please visit www.aiovision.org or call 0800 1300 486.