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John Marvin

Young Optometrists Have a Decision to Make

They face a fork in the road: owning a private practice and all other available (but inferior) options.

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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

MUCH LIKE THE author in this famous poem about decisions, for a young optometrist embarking on a career in eyecare the decision between owning a private practice and other available options can make all the difference. With its unique advantages, private practice optometry is the best choice for young optometrists and here is why.

Private practice offers unparalleled autonomy, allowing optometrists to make their own decisions about patient care. This fosters the entrepreneurial spirit, enabling practitioners to be innovative to meet the specific needs of their patients and community. Such freedom does not exist in corporate settings, where policies and procedures are centrally dictated.

A private practice requires optometrists to develop lasting relationships with patients. This continuity of care leads to a deeper understanding of patients’ eye health and vision needs, enabling more personalized and effective treatment plans and the definition of quality care.

The diverse responsibilities of running a private practice make an OD a better doctor. There is a recognition that patient care and loyalty are more than just an accurate Rx or high-resolution retinal image. Continual learning about eye pathology, coding and billing, or interpersonal communications with patients and employees is necessary to have the biggest impact on the lives of others.

When you own a private practice, you become an integral community member. The community depends on you as you grow dependent on the community. The two are necessary for each other.

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While starting a private practice requires initial investment and entails financial risk, the long-term financial rewards cannot be matched. Optometrists in private practice can quickly earn far more than their counterparts in salaried positions, especially as the practice grows and becomes established. Additionally, owning a practice is an asset that appreciates over time.

Today, we hear a lot about work-life balance. If you do not control the means of production and your income, you do not have a life. Your life is controlled by others who write your check and dictate the rules by which you practice. Do you want to spend eight years in higher education, amass hundreds of thousands in student debt, and have a corporate manager dictate to you how and when you will practice the profession for which you are handsomely paid? That’s a serious question. Do you?

Practice owners have total control over their schedules; employed doctors have little to none. Private practice ODs have complete control over how they practice; employed doctors do not. This flexibility can improve job satisfaction, well-being, and career longevity.

I feel strongly that private practice optometry will keep the profession relevant and rewarding. Suppose the next generation of ODs do not embrace the entrepreneurial opportunity of owning their practice. In that case, the profession will follow pharmacy, and accountants and corporate management will determine the quality of professional life.

Young optometrists, you have a decision to make.

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