By Stephanie Woo, OD, FAAO, FSLS
Feb. 17, 2021
Staff education is one of the cornerstones of a successful practice. The question is how to provide that education. As I launched my own cold-start practice last year, I wondered how I would train my staff. As a speaker at conferences, I also was getting questions from other ODs on how to teach their employees how to do the things I recommended in my presentations. I decided in response to my own needs, and that of other practice owners, to launch my own university of staff training resources.
Wide Range of Educational Needs
Doctors have a desire for a varied array of education. Some need clinical education, some want updates on research, others want practice management information, and education on many other non-optometry-related subjects are requested, too.
In-person continuing education at events such as the Academy of Optometry, Global Specialty Lens Symposium (GSLS), Vision Expo and Optometry’s Meeting have been especially helpful to me personally. I also have found some of the hands-on workshops at some of the major meetings to be useful. Fortunately, during the pandemic, webinars and virtual events have given doctors the opportunity to view the education that they are interested in, at their own pace.
In addition, I have enjoyed the archived webinars and newsletters that gpli.info and sclerallens.org have shared. They are both non-profit organizations committed to helping practitioners, and a major part of that is staff training. Many of the laboratories have also developed webinars, pamphlets, in-office wetlabs and other events to help prepare staff.
Filling a Hole in the OD Education Market
I started Woo University because I felt that, even with so many staff training resources available, there were practice management topics that needed more, or different, attention. My good friend, Craig Norman, was the one who thought of the name “Woo U,” and once I had a name, ideas started to flow. For instance, many doctors approached me after lectures or workshops that I have given, asking, “I know how to fit scleral lenses, but I have no idea how to implement them into my own clinic.” Or: “I know how to fit specialty lenses, but I don’t know how to get other doctors to refer to me.” Or: “I have no idea how to talk to patients about prices – help!” I saw an opportunity to answer some of these questions. So, I developed an online platform to provide insights on these sought-after topics.
The content on Woo University ranges from COPE-approved events to more casual interviews. The content is developed as we receive requests from doctors and students around the world. When we see a question come up repeatedly, we develop a webinar to answer it. For now, all of our events are virtual. We have some exciting free COPE events coming up, which you can see HERE. In the future, we will be hosting daylong in-person events, and we are creating a library of resources, videos and other helpful content.
In addition to questions brought to me by other doctors, I created Woo University because I did not always have positive experiences finding effective training resources for my staff. Some of the free content online was difficult for my staff to understand, and they were not motivated to watch the videos or complete the courses. So, that has led us to create highly interactive programs, such as virtual wet labs and workshops, along with videos that the staff can watch at their own convenience.
Other Articles to Explore
I recently did an interview during a Woo University webinar on a commonly requested topic, billing and coding. There was so much information presented in the interview, that I often refer back to the video and re-watch one of the subtopics that we discussed to make sure I am implementing the process correctly. As I have done for other Woo University webinars, I created an e-mail newsletter with highlights from the billing and coding webinar and sent it to the doctors who participated, in case they want a quick summary of the event and don’t have time to watch the full video again.
My goal is to provide as much free education and content as I can on Woo University. In the future there may be some paid content to cover my expenses (for instance, I often have to pay a video editor to edit parts of the video, create links for the video, and more). If I present a COPE-approved event, that also costs money, so I am figuring out a way to recoup some of these costs. For now, we have been able to find gracious sponsors of the events, so practitioners have been able to attend for free.
Current Training Challenge: Getting a New Associate Up to Speed
I have an associate doctor, who assists with many of our specialty contact lens fittings and follow-ups. She is not residency-trained, so sometimes she needs more guidance on how to design a lens, and she often has questions on why we make changes to the lens parameters. To help her understand, I will set up a meeting with the laboratory consultant, my associate doctor, and myself, and we have a video call together. Here, we are able to share the videos of the contact lens on the patient’s eye, as well as helpful graphics such as topographies and OCT images, and then we are able to talk through what we are all observing, and what changes to the lens we are thinking of making and why. She has found this helpful, and her skills are improving at a rapid pace.
I have also done this with other doctors in my local area. If a doctor is having trouble fitting a patient, I will invite them to my clinic, so they can join the patient and myself. I then can guide them through my fitting process and answer questions along the way. This helps the doctor understand my thought process and also lets them view our exam flow, so they can take anything they find useful and implement it in their own clinic.
A while back my associate doctor and I fit a patient with a corneal gas permeable lens for keratoconus. Due to time constraints we applied the lenses, took images and repeated the process with several different lenses. After the patient left, we reviewed each of the videos and discussed our observations, and then I explained to her why I selected the next lens (based on the prior lens fit). She expressed a genuine understanding of what we were looking for, and next time, I am confident she will be able to fit the patient on her own.
I plan to take experiences like this and find ways to create educational content that both my staff and yours can benefit from.