That’s great! As with any field, one of the things that’s always good to know is the perspective of those that have gone before you. Learning first hand what things you can do now do increase your success in the future. There’s always a gap between ‘educational setting’ and ‘real world’ demands, and finding out first hand is probably the most valuable thing you can do. To that end, I wanted to get an idea from some recent graduates of Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry to get their impression on what these differences are.
Is This Covered?
The overwhelming response that I received was, unsurprisingly, insurance, billing, and coding. You are going to probably be dealing with this regardless of where you are – private practice, hospital settings, or wherever else. Most of the people I talked with said they were more than prepared clinically, but listed this as the major thing they had to learn after graduation. It’s not surprising, really. With how many different insurances there are, and varying requirements that can change on a yearly basis, it’s only something you’re going to learn once you’re in the thick of it.
Many of those I spoke with were able to find someone to help get them over the initial hump of insurance. Deciphering codes, and ensuring that charts are coded correctly can be a daunting task. Being able to draw from the experience of those that have done it before is going to be invaluable for you, so be sure that it’s something you understand, as you’ll end up doing it on a daily basis.
You aren’t going to be able to count on your patient having any idea of what their insurance covers, medication-wise. While you still need to prescribe what’s correct for the patient, you are going to want to do whatever you can to make it easy for them. The last thing you want is the patient calling you from the pharmacy telling you the medication is going to cost them $400 and the pharmacist is going to call you to get a pre-authorization.
I was also told that getting on insurance panels can be an extensive process, so it is something that’s good to keep on early. One suggestion to make this process easier for new doctors is the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare (www.caqh.org). This is an organization of many of the major health insurance carriers that has a process for you to self-report your information. The point of this being it can reduce the paperwork and time needed to get you listed on various health insurance carriers.
It’s Okay, I Know Someone
Like many fields, the other major thing all of these recent graduates placed importance on was starting early when considering the job market. There’s a few different options when it comes to your type of work environment, and you need to see how those align with what you, personally, want to get out of it. Are you looking at private practice, a hospital, or maybe working with veterans? Each of these is going to put you into a vastly different type of setting with different priorities and types of patients. If you’re able to get any experience that can help you become more diversified, you should definitely consider it. The more first-hand experience you can get, the easier it is to decide how you want to shape your career. Often this can mean using clinical rotations to diversify your experiences.
As with any job, networking is always important. In this case, however, networking isn’t just about finding people that can help you get a job. That is, of course, one major reason, but once you find a job – where are you getting new patients from? The easiest way, of course, is if they just walk in the door themselves. Since it isn’t always as easy as “if you build it, they will come”, you want to do the next best thing, which is getting other doctors to refer patients to you. So be sure to make friends with primary care doctors, cardiologists, rheumatologists, and anyone else you can find that may need to send a patient for a vision examination. As they can often have patients that need vision tests done, it only makes sense that they would need to have a suggestion of someone they can use in the area. This referral also helps to put your patient into a more receptive state of mind, as their doctor has recommended you, meaning you must be the best O.D. in the area. This is something you can use to your advantage when starting out, or as something that adds value in a group practice setting.
Once you get these patients in, of course, you have to remember the setting that you are in. You want to be sure to dress the part, you’re a professional and want to make sure that your patients are comfortable, which means dressing like a doctor. It’s also important to review their history before seeing them, if possible. Being able to prepare the night before for your patients the next day can at least give you a ‘heads up’ if there’s anything you need to prepare or read up on ahead of time. There’s no reason to walk in unprepared, as you want to be sure you’re able to give the best medical advice possible.
The thing that these two areas have in common, of course, are a reliance on other people. When you finally get into the wonderful world of insurance, for example, having someone that knows how it works is going to be a great help. Similarly, word of mouth and knowing people is going to land you the best opportunities, whether that be a job or simply more patients coming to see you. Overall, the educational curriculum is going to give you a solid foundation of the clinical skills you need, but it’s up to you to motivate yourself to be a successful professional.
Special thanks to Jennifer Turano O.D. and Kelsey Moody, O.D., PCO class of 2015, and James Deom, O.D. and Taylor Babcock, O.D., PCO class of 2014 for their responses.
– Art Vandalay
About Salus University
Pennsylvania College of Optometry
For almost a century, Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) has forged a reputation of excellence, leadership and innovation in the world of optometry. Today the founding college of Salus University, that PCO legacy continues in all of the University’s fourteen degree programs, none more so than in optometry.
In addition to the traditional four-year Doctor of Optometry program, Salus PCO offers an Accelerated Scholars program, tailored specifically to highly-motivated and well-qualified students. The Accelerated Scholars program recognizes and develops individual student learning styles and leadership skills. Applicants are carefully screened and accepted based on their qualifications, history of academic performance, and career path. This unique program provides the opportunity for Salus PCO Scholars students to complete all of the requirements of the traditional OD degree program in an accredited, year-round, 36-month, on-campus program.
The largest residency program in North America, Salus PCO offers post-graduate training in primary care, ocular disease, vision rehabilitation, pediatrics/vision therapy, cornea/contact lenses and neuro-ophthalmic disease. In addition to twelve “in-house” residents at The Eye Institute of Salus University, there over 20 affiliated residents – many of whom are Salus PCO graduates – at various locations from northern New Jersey to Florida.
Additionally, Salus PCO also has offered a variety of educational programs designed to fit the needs of international students and ophthalmic practitioners for more than twenty years. The only academic institution in the United States to offer the Master of Science (MSc) degree program in clinical optometry, Salus PCO continues to educate eligible candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in optometry and who are licensed/registered to practice optometry in their host countries.
The PCO legacy is a matter of great pride to all members of the Salus University community. A dedicated faculty that continues to create innovative curricula, a focused and mutually-supportive student body, a forward-thinking Board of Trustees and administration, and loyal alumni who mentor and welcome students, all work together to ensure that the legacy begun in 1919 will not only continue but flourish.
Visit salus.edu to learn more.