By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD
Nov. 4, 2020
Fill-in work for practices, where you are not regularly employed, can enhance both your career and income. Even an associate doctor with a steady job can benefit from doing fill-in work.
I recently got a text from someone in the industry I have known a long time. She said she knew of a doctor who was in a bind and urgently needed coverage for his practice a few days a week for the next couple of weeks due to an associate’s unexpected absence. I was reluctant to take the fill-in position, but ultimately decided to do so, and I am happy I did. Here are several key reasons you may find fill-in work surprisingly beneficial.
Fill-in jobs are a quick, easy way to help a fellow OD and recover financially from a challenging year. I work part time as an employed OD, about 20 hours a week, but thanks to the pandemic, this year has been rocky. I have definitely taken a hit to my yearly income. Doing fill-in work is an easy way to supplement those deficits in income employed doctors may have endured due to the practices where we normally work being temporarily shut down this spring and/or due to them reopening with reduced hours and days.
Let’s be honest, it’s scary going into someone else’s practice. There are a lot of unknowns. How often do they book patients? What kind of equipment, EHR and staff do they have? Will you be run ragged or bored out of your mind? Will you get along with the staff? Do they practice optometry with the same ideals and philosophies that you practice with? Take a deep breath. Ask questions ahead of time so you have a general idea of the place and then go in with an open mind. I think for the most part, most optometrists are practicing with the same general moral compass, methods and prescribing philosophies. Plus, if the place ends up being a total nightmare, you’re only there for a brief time. You’ll navigate your way through it and feel like you have conquered uncharted waters once you do.
Arguably, the most valuable thing you have to gain by accepting a fill-in position is that you will get to be a fly on the wall in another practice and see how it operates. Maybe the practice owner has discovered efficiencies that you never dreamed of, and you will be able to apply that new knowledge to your own practice.
The optometric community is a small one. Everyone knows everyone (or knows someone who knows someone who knows that person.) Making new connections with fellow optometrists in your area is to your advantage. You never know what that connection might lead to. Most of the time, the practice where you filled in will view you in high regard for helping them in their time of need. They might even know someone who is looking for a fill-in or permanent doctor in the future. In this way, filling in can open job opportunities you may not even know you are interested in yet.
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Also, it’s good to feel we have allies and that we’re not alone. Sometimes working for a private practice can make you feel like you’re stranded on a desert island (or collection of islands if they have multiple locations.) Connecting with other ODs in other practices will help you see optometry on a broader scale, and it may make you more likely to advocate for the profession as a whole.