Peanut Butter & Jelly Can Make a Point

I struggled with trying to get my staff to keep the exam lanes stocked. We had discussed the importance of doing so at staff meeting after staff meeting and it continued to be an ongoing problem.   My doctor had finally had enough the day she reached for alcohol prep pads and exam gloves and didn't have any in the exam lane she was using.  She came to me and vented.  We had a staff meeting scheduled for the following morning and I thought about my doctor's frustrations and how I could get the point through to the staff in an impactful way. The next morning, the staff gathered for our images (1)monthly meeting. I asked everyone "Who  makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their family?" Everyone raised a hand. Then I asked "Who thinks they can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and pour glass of milk in a minute or less?" Again, everyone raised a hand.

I asked for two volunteers.  Cathy and Sue eagerly stood up.  I said,  "Let's time you both and see who can make a PBJ and pour a glass of milk the fastest." I had set up two stations where they could make their sandwiches. "On your mark, get set... GO!" I started the timer.

Both staff members set about making their PBJ. Almost immediately, Cathy turned to me and said "I don't have a knife for my peanut butter."  "Oh! I'm sorry! I must have forgotten to get a knife" I said, "Go run and grab one quickly from the kitchen."  Cathy ran into the kitchen while the other staff member kept making her PBJ. Finally, Cathy returned and set about making up for lost time until she went to pour the glass of milk and realized she didn't have a glass. "I'm sorry", I said - I forgot to get a glass for you. I'm sure there's one in the kitchen." "Cathy jumped up and ran to the kitchen again - this time smiling since she and everyone else present knew the point I was making.

By this time, Sue had completed her task - a delicious looking PBJ and glass of milk were sitting in front of her.  Cathy, returned with an empty glass from the kitchen. She was a little out of breath. She poured her glass of milk.  "Done!" she exclaimed.

I asked Cathy if she thought she could have beat Sue if she'd had all the supplies she needed. She emphatically said "Yes!"

I said "Sue isn't necessarily a faster sandwich maker but she was able to finish first because she had all the supplies she needed at hand.  Every time you have to leave your work area to get supplies you are making yourself less efficient and unnecessarily increasing patient processing time and patient waits. My staff finally got the point.

Sometimes you've got to think outside the box to drive home a simple point. The next time your staff meeting agenda looks like a copy of last months' agenda, see if you can use fun,  simple yet memorable ways to illustrate your point.

Strategies for Technician Training

download (2)The vast majority of today's ophthalmic medical assistants are trained on the job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in this field will grow 30% from 2012-2022. Some regions of the US have tremendous deficits* of trained OMP therefore, training will continue to be a challenge that must be met head on for the foreseeable future. It can be a real challenge to find the time and resources for technician training. Various methods can be used in conjunction with one another to accomplish your training goals.  Training should be an ongoing pursuit over one's entire career  - not a one time event. Effective training pays for itself through increased competency and efficiency. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Mentoring:  Identify your most proficient technician who also has good communication skills and interpersonal skills. Ideally, a formal outlined training program should be developed and followed so there is consistency, thoroughness and accountability for each new trainee.  Advantages: relatively inexpensive, hands on training is ideally suited for this type of training.  Disadvantages:  It may be difficult to identify an ideal trainer, training requires staff time which detracts from the trainer's productivity during training period.

2. Brown Bag Seminars: These are ideal for ongoing training in bits and pieces. Typically they are held during lunchtime. A variety of topics can be covered by the doctors, outside equipment or pharmaceutical reps or staff members (i.e. billing and coding can be covered by your billing staff).  Advantages: Inexpensive, typically require little advance planning, can be conducted frequently, doesn't interfere with office flow. Disadvantages: The short duration limits the complexity of topics that can be covered.

4. On Site Consultant: Bringing a seasoned trainer into your office for a specified period of time can help make the learning curve significantly steeper.  The quality and quantity of training provided immerses the trainee in the process and can catapult the trainee toward proficiency.  Advantages: You choose consultant and training based on your needs. You can schedule training at a time that is convenient for your practice. Training frequently can be conducted without interfering with patient flow. Consultants are typically experts in their respective fields, but be sure to check references. Hands on and classroom training typically offered. Training can take place at a time that's convenient for your office. Interactive by nature, trainees can ask questions of consultant trainer.  May be accredited for CE Hours.  Disadvantages:  May be more costly than some other alternatives unless many staff are trained at once (in which case, it may actually be cheaper than some other methods).

5. Off Site Seminars (i.e. Continuing Education Meetings):  Nothing can match the excitement of being at a large meeting with other technicians! Most technicians say they were inspired after attending a large meeting or convention. Typically faculty is fully vetted and well versed on topic. Advantages: Peer to peer interaction, competent faculty, CE hours, hands on training frequently offered. Disadvantages: Travel expenses must be taken into consideration.

5. Self Paced Study (i.e. books, videos, webinars):  This type of training is best used in addition to other modalities to augment learning.  Advantages: Relatively inexpensive especially considering you can train multiple staff members at once using same resource. Doesn't interfere with office flow.  Disadvantages: Hands on training difficult or impossible, usually accomplished through a virtual interface. Usually requires initiative on the part of the trainee