Flexing My Specialty During the Pandemic
My number one objective as a Doctor of Optometry is to make people feel comfortable going to the optometrist—you might say it’s my specialty. I knew from my first visit to get glasses in the fifth grade that I loved going to the optometrist, and my goal today is to give patients the same experience I had. As I modify my practice in response to the pandemic, my mission to make patients feel comfortable and safe remains my top priority.
When the pandemic hit, feeling comfortable went out the window for many of us, especially those considering going to the doctor. Keeping my patients’ comfort in mind, my practice started implementing services such as free contact lens shipping and curbside pickup so we could continue caring for patients in a way that made them feel safe. One of my favorite stories during that time is about a man who needed new glasses to replace his broken ones, and his very pregnant wife wanted to help him choose the new pair. The man sent me a picture of the style he liked, we picked out six or seven comparable styles, and we met the couple in our parking lot (socially distancing). The man modeled each pair for his wife who sat in the car, and together they chose their favorite frame. A short time later we dispensed the glasses curbside to the very grateful couple. Despite all of the uncertainty around us, we were able to care for this patient in a way that made him and his wife feel at ease.
As we prepared to reopen for routine care, our focus remained on the safety and comfort of our patients and staff. The VSP Global Premier Program provided resources to help us modify our practice so we could safely see patients when the time was right. The Reopening Guide was really helpful when identifying the specific items we needed to address, and we refer to it regularly. Now that we’ve been open for a while, we have the guide posted as a reminder to keep us diligent. The Premier Academy360 podcasts were informative as well, especially one by colleague Adam Clarin, OD, who talked about his path to reopening. And the personal protective equipment (PPE) resources were very useful as we navigated this unchartered territory. Plus, the Premier Program recently waived their June check-in, enabling participating practices to maintain their current status and focus on recovering and reopening. That’s a really nice comfort for many practices during this time of uncertainty.
Once we were back open for routine care, I followed Dr. Clarin’s lead and emailed a short video to patients showing them the things we had done to make them safe and comfortable. Patients loved it, and I’m happy to report we are now at full capacity. Full capacity for us is one patient every thirty minutes, given the extra time we spend connecting with patients to make them feel comfortable. Even with the extra sanitation protocols in place, we are still maintaining that pace.
As I see it, despite its challenges, the pandemic has given me one more opportunity to show my patients that they can feel comfortable going to the optometrist—and may even love it!