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When I graduated from optometry school four years ago, I knew that I wanted to own my very own private practice. As I started to plan for how I would open a practice cold and manage to stay afloat financially, I had some very important decisions to make in regards to how I would support myself. I was a single person going into a lot of debt to finance my own business, and I had student loans that I needed to repay. For me, working at a commercial chain seemed to make the most sense.
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Understand Your State Laws
My experience at a commercial chain was very positive overall. To me, I look back at the opportunity much like a paid residency where I had the opportunity to see a lot of healthy individuals and refine my skills making me the doctor that I am today.
For those of you who will be working in a commercial setting after graduation, I have a few pieces of advice that Iíd like to share with you. Based upon my experiences at the commercial level and at the private practice level, Iíve been able to make some valuable observations about the profession of optometry.
First, the fact that youíre practicing in a commercial setting doesnít make you any less liable or responsible to your state laws. Please make sure you take the time to fully understand your stateís laws. This is the best way to maintain a clean record with your stateís board of optometry.
In fact, regardless of the setting that you choose, itís important that you all pay particular attention to your state laws. Having my own business, I was very aware of my stateís laws about equipment requirements, HIPPA regulations, and employer/employee rights. Unfortunately, I witnessed many practitioners in the commercial environment who were not very well educated on these issues.

Reach Out to Other Professionals
Last, but certainly not least, please assume ownership in your state association. Your state association needs your support and input regardless of what modality you practice. I have witnessed so many ODs at the commercial level who arenít active in their state association. Some of the excuses I heard for not being involved included busy schedules, no perceived value of what the association does, or no sense of belonging to the state association as a commercial OD.
Iím optimistic that I speak for the majority of ODs out there when I say again that your state association needs your input, your perspective, and your financial support regardless of where you practice. Furthermore, without our state associations to protect the privileges that we have earned which define our scope of practice, the profession of optometry wouldnít be where it is today. You are optometryís future, and optometry is dependent upon each of you to keep our profession progressive.

Starting Strategies

When staff is scheduling appointments for new and established patients, they request that patients bring in ALL of their current glasses. This includes sunglasses (both prescription and non-prescription), computer glasses, reading glasses, and their most current pair of spectacles. By doing this, itís amazing at what we unveil! This is a great way to show patients that their current pair of sunglasses arenít polarized or that their most recent pair of computer glasses arenít coated with an anti-glare coating. This strategy has helped us update multiple pair of glasses for patients at the time of their examination. Putting inexpensive sunglasses in front of the projector to demonstrate the difference in optical quality of cheap sunglasses vs. those made with good optics has also been a great initiative upgrading many contact lens patients into good quality, doctor recommended sunglasses. - Kelly Kerksick, OD

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