As optometrists, we sometimes get wrapped up in our role as diagnostician and the treatments for our patients. We also have different “hats” that we wear in our offices which may include: business manager, frame buyer, bookkeeper, human resource coordinator, and office psychologist/therapist. Let’s not underestimate the importance of our role as educators.
We play an important role in our patient’s knowledge of eye and vision conditions which include the simple explanation of astigmatism; to the more serious explanations of glaucoma and macular degeneration. But many times we are the only medical professional that our patients visit on a regular basis. Therefore we should be explaining how systemic disease like diabetes, hypertension, and dislipidemia affect vision.
Recently I had an established 40 year old patient that had been prescribed metformin. During the exam I asked if she was familiar with her A1C (hemoglobin A1C %) number to which she replied, “no”. She went on to say that her M.D. didn’t explain much about the condition except for, “looks like your diabetic, we are going to start you on these pills.” She said a nurse then gave her some brochures and scheduled a follow up visit. So we had a little chat about how diabetes affects our bodies, what type of changes we might see in a retina if it were uncontrolled, why nutrition is important, and how her metformin was going to help her. Needless to say, she left well informed and very happy.
It is also very important to educate your new patients. Let them know all the things we are examining during there “routine” visit. Tell them we are available to them for other issues like dry eyes, pink eye, and eye injuries. I even explain that we are usually available after hours and the doctor’s cell number is on our messaging system if they call.
(Yes, we occasionally get a call for emergency eyewear dispensing, which of course is ignored). Most are pleased with the information, and don’t leave without scheduling visits for their family members.
Lastly, our education is important. TOA’s 113th annual convention, SECO, and SWCO educational conferences are around the corner. We need to stay on the cutting edge of treatments and technology to stay competitive and relevant. Let’s educate ourselves so that we can then educate our patients. Hope to see you there.
– Benny Peña, OD