Certification: Hire it, Display it, Cherish it
BY JANE J. BEEMAN, COA, NCLC-AC, FCLSA, PRSA
Recently, I had the opportunity to change practices. With 20 years in the ophthalmic field and a reasonably good résumé, no one working in the new practice doubted my clinical or management skills. But patients were somewhat wary of the newcomer.
Then one snowy Saturday morning, our office manager pulled a group of carefully wrapped framed certificates out of my moving boxes and hung them on the office wall. The wall was already crowded with similar items from the two doctors in the practice, and mine seemed almost incidental in the mix. The job finished, the new certificates on the wall were quickly forgotten.
Certification Makes a Difference
The next week as patients began to flow through the office, something changed. Patients seemed to relax, and their questions took on a different focus. Now they asked, what is an ophthalmic assistant? Where did you train? What kind of testing is required to become an advanced contact lens fitter? How did you get to be a Fellow in the Contact Lens Society of America? And my favorite question of all: Would you recommend this career to my child?
|Information on Staff Certification|
AOA Para-Optometric Association (800) 365-2219
Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology
Contact Lens Society of America (703) 437-5100
Opticians Association of America (703) 916-8856
Several weeks later, I stopped and looked at those framed certificates hanging quietly on the wall. I remembered my nervous fear driving to the testing center so many years ago. I thought about the weeks of study, the wait for the results and my excitement when the official letter arrived congratulating me. I smiled thinking of the support of good friends and colleagues.
Researching, studying, writing, memorizing and testing were never my favorite things. I wasn't guaranteed more salary if I became certified. I had to personally research certifications and study materials because my old practice manager didn't seem to care if the staff was certified or obtained continuing education. On top of it all, I was trying to balance a marriage, children and work. What ever possessed me to decide I needed to get certified?
The answer is simple: professional confidence. Academic education and work experience can help you obtain and keep a job, but if you really want a career, stepping beyond the ordinary is essential. Certification takes you to another level. Your co-workers know it, the doctors see it in your performance and your patients sense it.
As an employer, I look for certification to mark staff members who are looking ahead, interested in building a career in the profession. Their continuing education will infuse the practice with new information and new ideas. Improved confidence and clinical skills will improve patient flow and eventually lead to improved practice efficiency and profitability. As managers, we must be open to listening and trying out new ideas, and every practice should make some financial allowance to encourage, support and retain highly skilled staff.
New products, techniques and processes can separate a practice from the competition, but what keeps a patient coming back is the skill and personal attention that certified personnel are trained to deliver.
The past director of professional services for Bausch & Lomb, Jane is now in clinical practice in Rochester, NY, and is a frequent quest speaker at leading academic and professional programs around the world.