I was a 4th grader and thought that jumping off the edge of the bleachers behind the 8ft basketball goal at my school to try and dunk the basketball like superman was a great idea. At the time, I did not have the discipline to think through the potential consequences before jumping. When I jumped with the ball in hand from behind the basketball goal I soared to the rim to dunk the ball. Since I had limited to no experience dunking the ball, I did not know when to let go. Like a monkey swinging through the trees, I held on too long and my feet went out in front of me past the rim and left me parallel to the ground. At which time I decided it was a good time to let go. Problem was, that I was parallel to the ground. And here comes the big surprise…..Excruciating PAIN!!! I landed on my back with my right hand behind trying to support the fall. Fortunately, I did not break my back but only my arm. And yes, a complete break of both arms. In my hurry to not be seen by anyone, and probably a rush of adrenaline, I jumped up and sat on the bleachers, to act as though nothing had happened. I tried to support my body with my arm and out protruded a bone. I literally almost passed out and to this day I can’t remember a time of greater pain.

When we learn from the pain we experience then we can rest assure that pain has a purpose, although while in the midst of experiencing the pain we may have adrenaline rushing that results in more poor decisions. There are many pains in running an optometry office but none as present and real as the pain of staffing today.

Since 2020 and the Great Resignation, we have been in turbulent staffing times. We had situations where we hired a staff member only to get an email, if we are lucky, the day of that says they decided to not accept the position. Ironically, they accepted it 2 weeks earlier. Or the staff member that shows up and works for 2 weeks, only to decide that work is not for them at this time. I mean, c’mon. This is painful for everyone. The staff members who are loyal and are fighting to give great care eventually break and those doctors having to go without support staff for extended periods of time eventually just burnout. So are there really any solutions to the pain of so much staff turnover in the last 2 years?  Yes, there are options.

You could put bandages on loyal staff and others taking on more than they can manage which leads to burnout and increased risk of losing more people. You can reduce the number of staff that you need by cutting back your schedule or reducing days in the office until this “blows over.” Or you can find ways to become less dependent on staff. I liked the third option so that is what we have been doing.

This requires us to automate as much as possible and repurpose current staff to build up areas where you can’t afford to be short-staffed in order to survive this time in the practice lifecycle.

Areas to consider automation in your pain treatment

1. Front deskAutomate the check-in process so that the traditional front desk staff person is not needed at that position. If done in advance you get everything setup so that when that individual leaves the office you do not need to replace them. You could also determine that that staff person is a good asset to your team so you move them to another area of the office that you are not automating.

2. Optical backend management – Technical training and backend organization is needed in the optical profession to be profitable and efficient. This can be automated if you have the right frame demo and ophthalmic lab system in place to make that happen. We utilize a group dedicated to the frame and lens side of the optical experience. Once we got that up and running it required far less oversight and time in the back lab processing jobs. This allows opticians to be in the optical working with patients more with less administration.

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Lighting struck our practice, we lost power and breaker boxes. In all my years in medicine I had never experienced anything like this. Thankfully Weave took a lot of weight off my shoulders. In seconds, I was able to send our phone lines to my cell through the Weave app & answer client calls. ~Angel | Weave Customer

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3. Patient engagement – There are multiple touchpoints for patients engaging with your practice. Many of these touch points can be automated utilizing patient engagement software. We have found that utilizing a company like Weave, is a cost effective way to become less dependent on the old way of communicating with patients. To keep patients engaged with us and continuing to schedule appointments, pay their bills, or dialogue about medical follow up, we use the power of Weave to make this manageable. Our 5 location, 9 doctor practice utilizes central communications and 3 employees to manage the patient engagement. Combining the front desk automated check-in process allowed us to reduce the demand at the front desk and repurpose good employees to communication specialists. This reduced the number of employees needed and actually frees us up to hire another communication specialist to continue to meet the patients where they are at.

Pain is the professor of wisdom only known to those who have lived through a life that includes pain. We don’t invite it into our lives and especially not into our practices. Pain is an uninvited piece of managing and growing a practice. The last couple of years staffing issues has shown up as pain that was in desperate need of management. When you prioritize patient engagement points in your office and choose to automate the engagement points lower on the list, you not only solve the immediate pain but you work to learn from the pain and therefore make changes that result in you being best equipped with the right systems in place to manage the next time staff pain comes knocking.