By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO
An optometry extern in my office told me that he had a patient come in with a foreign body in his eye lid. He proceeded to tell me that he extracted the foreign body by inverting the patient’s lid and removing the foreign body with a cotton-tipped applicator—in other words, a Q-Tip. I told him “Never use a Q-tip when you can use specialized tools like a spud that can be sterilized; we are doctors, use doctor tools!”
Unfortunately, this student’s methods and the “tool” he chose are not uncommon in optometry. Too often ODs opt for less than professional eyecare processes. It also is commonplace for doctors to hand patients a bottle of artificial tears instead of prescribing them medically appropriate eye drops. In addition, I have heard ODs call forceps “tweezers” and have noticed that some ODs use baby shampoo as a lid scrub rather than a sterile scrub designed for that purpose.
As ODs we are fighting to expand the medical eyecare services we provide and to be treated with respect as doctors by the healthcare community. To achieve those things we need to be conscious of the methodologies we use when treating patients and how we communicate those methods to patients. We need to use medically proper tools to treat patients and we also should resist the urge to call instruments by household names.
It is important to be friendly and open with patients rather than intimidating, but we don’t need to dumb down our methods or language to do that. We can always call the instruments and processes we use by their proper names and then explain what the processes and tools are in everyday language so patients understand.
The professional image and credibility we want to project begins with our own actions and words. Be conscious of the message you send patients during the treatment process in the exam room.
How do you ensure the actions and words of you and your entire eyecare team communicates professionalism and credibility?
Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, is president of Lakeline Vision Source in Austin, Texas. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org.