Staff Management

Optical Staff Reimbursement: Time for Tips from Patients?

By Ally Stoeger, OD

The downward spiral of vision plan fees and medical reimbursement fees is making it difficult to hire quality staff members. And we all know that quality staff members are the key to practice success.

Our reimbursements hover around or well below fees charged by the local nail salon and the hairdresser. With one difference–their staff members receive substantial tips.

Is it time for a sign on the optometric office front desk welcoming patients to offer staff a tip for a job well done? The sign could maybe point out how much is gained by a well-fitting pair of eyeglasses and how appreciative staff is of any gratuities offered.

This may be an off-the-wall idea to some–but hear me out.

You may be put off by the idea of an optical tips jar, but you could think of it in terms of motivating success. In addition to offering performance-based incentives or end-of-year bonuses from practice owners, tips from patients provide immediate feedback. That kind of positive feedback is a great counterbalance to the challenges typical in any busy optical dispensary. Your optical staff, after all, has its share of complex patients, and also probably has many days when they are stretched to the limit.

What if, after a day of serving patients to the best of their abilities, your hard-working, high-performing employees found more than a thank you from patients? “Thank you” is wonderful, but an immediate monetary reward to go along with that “thank you” is great.

I don’t think I’m ready to put a tip jar in my office–yet. But if reimbursements are so low that you can no longer give staff appropriate raises, it may be a way to keep your best employees.

Have you considered taking the step of letting patients know tipping of optical staff is welcome? Or do you worry patients will feel angered that they are being asked to tip in addition to the money they just spent on their eye exam and glasses? Do you worry about sending the wrong message about the optometric office experience–likening it to being served by a waiter or waitress?

Ally Stoeger, OD, was a founding and managing partner of a multi-doctor practice and has recently opened a new practice in Gainesville, Va. Contact: You also can follow Dr. Stoeger on Facebook at

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