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YOU ONLY GET one first time. But eyecare is a complex business, and as an ECP, chances are you’ve been through many optical “firsts”. We asked our readers to share their most memorable ones with us. Some are cherished moments of triumph, others ended in tears, but we think it’s safe to say that all were valuable learning experiences. Here’s a collection of our favorite firsts.

The First Time I Ever…

Worked Alone

  • The boss called out and I was only a month or two into the business. I had a huge sales day as the only person on the floor with two families of seven at the same time, plus a man who wanted a fourth Rx change from an outside doctor. I kept my cool. I had fun with the 14 family members, handled the delicate situation with the last patient successfully, and had a record day. — Chris Dudley, Independent Optician, Central FL

Fired a Patient

  • It was fun. I had business cards from two optical shops that were less than stellar, so I sent the patient to one. I received a call later asking me never to send them patients again. — BJ Chambers, Carrera Optical, McQueeney, TX

broken eyewear

Botched a Frame Adjustment

  • I was always told that you are not a real optician until you break a frame. When that happened a weight was lifted and my comfort level adjusting frames was multiplied by four. — Christian M. Robertson, Midwest Eye Care, Omaha, NE
  • I will always remember my first frame break. It’s like cutting teeth. It’s a painful memory, but it’s behind me and you learn from it. Especially the yelling… — Heather Aites, Family Vision Center, Westminster, CO
  • The first patient’s frame that I “broke” — and this tells my age — I was running the temples through the old glass beads we used to use and just talking away to the patient. I looked down and the temple was dripping. I had been in the business maybe a year. I looked up at her with my mouth wide open and she just cracked up. Thank goodness because that sure could have ended differently! That is when I realized that the world would not swallow me up if I screwed something up, but paying attention is key! — Stephanie Crowley, Sie Eyecare, Charlotte, NC
  • I started giving “Congratulations” cards out to new opticians when they broke their first frame. The look on their faces when they thought they were going to be fired was always priceless. But when they opened it up and saw a card, gift certificate and a ‘Welcome to the optical world’ note, it was worth it. I looked forward to hiring new people just for this moment. — Tim Gray, Visual Eyes, Huntingdon Valley, PA

Fired a Patient and Botched a Frame Adjustment

  • I was the new office manager and had a patient come in and go off on me because we “sold his son an expensive frame.” The son picked out his frame and paid. We didn’t force the frame on him. Dad curses and gets louder and louder. I calmly told him his son made the decision and the purchase. Then I told him he needed to leave. I was shaking and had another patient waiting for a frame adjustment. After the irate father left, the next patient told me how rude the guy was and how I had handled it like a charm. I thanked him, took his frame to the lab to adjust it … and broke it! I came out and told him with a tear in my eye. He told me not to worry about it after all I had just been through with the other person. He was so kind. I will forever be grateful for him being so kind after someone else had been so rude. — Melanie Jenkins, Spring Hill Eyecare, Spring Hill, TN

ECPs Told Us Their Most Memorable ‘First’ Times

Had a Patient Walk in the Door of My New Practice

  • The very first patient in my brand new cold start office was a low hyperope/emerging presbyope wanting to try contact lenses for the first time. Needless to say, it was a lengthy process of acquiring trials, setting up realistic expectations, etc. — Amina Ebrahim, OD, D Vision Eyecare, Allen, TX

Handled a CL Order or Insertion & Removal

  • I had a patient’s eye pop out when doing an I&R class. I almost died. He just popped it right back in the socket and stuck the contact on. — Annette Prevaux, The Visionary Inc., Allen Park, MI

Bagged a Huge Sale

  • I had just started working for the company and was doing my first sale without the help of anyone. It was over $1,000. I was afraid to tell the customer the total because I thought they would no longer want to buy the glasses. I went to my manager to try to get them to tell the customer their total. My manager told me I could do it and everything would be fine. The customer was fine with the total and said they expected the cost to be more! Then they turned around and purchased another pair of glasses. The total for both came to over $2,500. — Danielle Doniver, Heritage Optical, Detroit, MI

Saved a Life

  • I diagnosed a brain tumor in a 16-year-old. He had surgery and the mother returned to thank me for saving her son’s life. — Robert M. Easton Jr., OD, FAAO, Oakland Park, FL
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Dispensed Eyewear

  • I remember when I was doing my apprenticeship that I went to put a pair of glasses on a lady because I saw my sponsors do it. But instead of coming from the top with the temples, I came from below her chin. I was so worried about the temples that I put the nose pads up her nose! — Julie Uram, Optical Oasis, Jupiter, FL

Started a Business

  • The day I signed on the dotted line on my own business, I thought with a smile of sheer terror and excitement: “What the hell did I just do?” It was both an exciting and a scary moment. There was no turning back. And to this day, I couldn’t be happier. — Dennis Iadarola, OD, Center For Vision Care, Monroe, CT

Fired an Employee

  • Firing a staff member that we all loved personality-wise was incredibly difficult for us. He was kind, good-hearted, always willing to lend a hand etc… We could have rationalized for 10 years why his personality was worth keeping him, but when it came down to it, he just didn’t fit with the direction we were heading. Patients had complained regularly about their trust in his ability and were often requesting not to work with him (though they liked him). He struggled with technology. We tried to make it work with countless training sessions, binders written with really easy to follow step-by-step directions … but after seeing little improvement we knew what we had to do. It will probably always stand out as one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do professionally. — Tiffany Firer, Lifetime Eyecare, Jenison, MI

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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