At Premier Vision Group's offices in Bowling Green, OH, no patient’s individual fitting needs are too difficult for one office thanks to a fully stocked tool box, a little practice and an intense dedication to ensuring every patient has comfortable, well-fitting eyewear.
THE IDEA: Everyone needs individualized frame fittings and experienced opticians know you can’t fit everybody the same. But some individuals present even greater challenges when it comes to adjusting and customizing their eyewear than the average patient. Often, that requires an opticianry staff that is willing to go above and beyond the usual to ensure the best and most comfortable eyewear fitting experience possible. The Bowling Green location of the three-office Premier Vision Group has just that sort of staff and has collected a little bit of a reputation locally for tackling the toughest jobs for some very special patients.
It wasn’t a specialty they actively pursued; it happened organically. “We’re an established practice, we’ve been around for more than 60 years and it just happened,” says Tami Hagemeyer, lead optician, who’s been with the office for almost five years.
“We have one child in a wheelchair who required head guards to keep his head upright. It caused problems with traditional temples and knocked his frame askew when his head moved,” she says. “We have another gentleman who lost his ear to cancer. He had been an established patient, and after his treatment we had to find a solution to steady his frames. So we really fell into it. When patients come in and present with something challenging. You just do it. You try. You work with the frame until it works.”
THE EXECUTION: When Hagemeyer started she asked Dr. Mile Brujic, a partner at Premier Vision Group, about acquiring tools. He gave the OK to buy any tools she needed that would benefit patients.
Since then she has acquired quite the collection, including several unusual pliers and cable temple converters, as well as specialized cutters for stainless steel and titanium temples. “Nothing lasts very long when you’re cutting metal but we have to make these frames fit these patients,” she says.
Though some of her favorite tools are from Hilco, she also looks outside the usual optical tool suppliers to stock her lab and make sure she can get the job done. In fact, she is already on her second Dremel rotary tool. “I use it more than anyone would expect,” she says. “I use it on temples or if there is sharp edge on a frame or nosepad, I can file it off. I don’t think a Dremel is something you would see in a lot of labs, but I need it. When I started, I got two and sent the other one to one of our other offices. When mine recently stopped working, our office manager told me to take the other one back I had sent. They never even opened the box!”
THE REWARDS: “Patients are so appreciative,” Hagemeyer says. “When the family of the boy in the wheelchair come in, sometimes I’ll even just meet them in the parking lot and adjust his frames in the van so they don’t have to bring him in. Even with all his different issues, they know we got this. They know we are going to figure it out.”
And word has spread. “Now, there are a few places around us — special needs and group homes — that bring their residents to us because they know we can find something to work for all the patients that need eyewear.”
Premier Vision Group
Do It Yourself: Start Fitting Clients More Precisely➤ Don’t feel confined by the traditional tools of the trade. If there is specific task that needs to be done, perhaps your local hardware store has the perfect solution.
➤ Practice! Keep old stock, dead stock and patients’ broken frames. “We have a box here of some old frames that we practice adjusting on,” Hagemeyer says.
➤ Build practice time into formal staff training so all opticians can operate at the same level and assess each other’s strengths so any problem that presents can be tackled.
➤ Keep at it. “For us, we’ll often sneak additional practice in when the doctor is out of town and the office is slower,” Hagemeyer says.
➤ And don’t despair. “Know you are going to break some frames and it’s OK,” Hagemeyer says.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 edition of INVISION.