contact lens care and compliance
What We Can Learn From the West Point Cadets, Part 2
BY SUSAN J. GROMACKI, OD, MS, FAAO
In my last column, I began discussing how the United States Military Academy at West Point cadets' adherence to their motto, "Duty, Honor, Country," can help us improve patient compliance. Here we'll continue our look at how the cadets' way of life can serve as a model for our practices.
More on Honor
The West Point cadets always address their superiors—including officers, elders, and healthcare providers—as "sir" and "ma'am." I must admit, I'm at the age at which I appreciate it! Respecting others is what the cadets are taught and expected to do. In addition, most of them demonstrate genuinely positive attitudes (this also may be a function of their age). Rarely do I not get a smile upon making eye contact. It is a pleasure to provide care for them. So, look your patients in the eyes, treat them with respect, and they will in turn do the same for you—and for your lens care instructions.
Cadets are taught to honor themselves as well. All cadets are required to participate in physical training and to play a sport, whether intercollegiate, club, or intramural. We all know that exercise is good for the mind, body, and spirit. The cadets are highly encouraged to sleep—"lights out" is at 11:30 p.m. so that they will be well-rested to start their next day at 5:30 a.m.—and to eat breakfast and lunch in the mess hall, where they receive well-balanced, nutritious meals while seated at a table. No frozen TV dinners and pizza in front of the TV like other college students! As a result, their bodies and eyes generally heal well, which facilitates our job as medical providers.
Along the same lines, is there room in your practice to institute a more holistic approach to your patients' health?
The United States Military Academy is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America, and its impact on United States history dates back to the Revolutionary War. Since 1802, it has served as our nation's premier leadership institution. Graduates have gone on to become leaders in military service, business, medicine, law, sports, politics, and science. Another popular USMA motto states that, "Much of the history we teach was made by people we taught."
Today's cadets made the choice to attend West Point during wartime. Their willingness to serve our country in this time in our history, knowing that they will likely deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq soon after graduation, demonstrates their true patriotism. Many of them are equally devoted to their families, friends, and each other. The school spirit here is unrivaled—even when the football team has a losing record.
Regarding your practice, if you can tap into what your patients are devoted to, either individually or collectively, it can facilitate your communication with them. This will ultimately help both you and your patients achieve your compliance goals.
Potential for Your Practice
In summary, our country's future is in good hands if this group of young men and women continues to serve us as leaders. So, if the Academy culture can convince a group of post-adolescent college students to live and abide by the motto, "Duty, Honor, Country," imagine how much potential lies within the patients of your practice. CLS
Disclaimer: The opinions of the author expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government, the United States Army, or the Department of Defense.
Dr. Gromacki is a Diplomate in the Cornea, Contact Lenses, and Refractive Technologies section of the American Academy of Optometry. She is Chief Research Optometrist at Keller Community Hospital in West Point, New York.