Insights From Our Editors

What Associate Doctors Really Want: Insights from Our Team

Dr. Sorrenson (middle) with two associate ODs from her practice. Dr. Sorrenson says her practice works hard to get feedback from associates, and then make changes to ensure they are happy in the practice, and are able to their best in providing care to patients.

Dr. Sorrenson (middle) with two associate ODs from her practice, Dipa Kodukula, OD, (left as you look at photo) and Kim Slaughter, OD (on right). Dr. Sorrenson says her practice works hard to get feedback from associates, and then make changes to ensure they are happy in the practice, and are able to do their best in providing care to patients.

What practice owners need to do to keep associate ODs happy.

By Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO

July 10, 2024

As an owner-optometrist, understanding what makes associate doctors happy and satisfied in their roles is crucial.

I want a positive office environment where our doctors enjoy coming to work. Having happy doctors helps to ensure the success of our practice too!

To gain more insights on what makes associates happy, currently or in previous jobs, I conducted a survey of our seven associate doctors. The responses overwhelmingly highlighted two key factors: fair compensation and feeling valued and appreciated, with the latter mentioned by far the most in one form or another.

Here’s what I learned from my conversations and surveys, some anonymous, with our associate doctors:

Feeling Valued and Appreciated

One of the most significant aspects of job satisfaction for our associate doctors is feeling valued and appreciated. Vague, right? I love specifics… So I asked for examples of when they felt truly heard, supported, valued or appreciated. Here are a couple of examples.

One of our doctors shared a particularly memorable experience for her. A patient called, angrily complaining that the optometrist she saw was not a “real doctor,” and using very derogatory language. This made me angry for her and for our profession!

I decided to take a firm stand. I fired the patient, sent her all her records, issued a refund for her out-of-pocket expenses and reinstated her vision benefits. This decisive action not only showed our associate doctor that we had her back, but also reinforced to our entire staff that we support and respect our team members unconditionally. This doctor told me that the whole staff really showed their support for her and she felt very valued in that moment, knowing that we prioritized her dignity and well-being.

Another doctor shared that their opinions were genuinely valued when we experimented with office hours based on their suggestions. They proposed changes to our office hours to better meet patient needs and improve work-life balance for the staff. Implementing these ideas showed that we trust and respect our associates’ professional judgment and are willing to make adjustments for the betterment of the practice.

Send Dr. Sorrenson Your Practice Management Questions

ROB Professional Editor Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, will be selecting practice management questions to answer in a future column. Please send the practice management questions stumping you to:

This kind of responsiveness and willingness to consider an associate’s input made them feel like an integral part of the team, not just an employee. I mentioned before the importance of doctor meetings for staff ideas to be heard…and it is important to act upon those ideas one way or another.

We meet weekly with all of our associate doctors (some are on Zoom; we change which day we do our meetings quarterly so that everyone gets the “live” experience half of the year), we buy their lunch, review metrics monthly, and we also ask each doctor for “good news” or “shout-outs” for our other team members.

We keep an updated to-do list so that they can see what we did since the last meeting, and we have an “Issues List” that is on a Google Document that they can add to at any time to discuss at the next meeting.

I also try to check in with each doctor individually once a month. I started doing this by e-mail recently. I was surprised how successful that was because at the office our associates are always busy getting ready for their next patient and they don’t have the time to think about things they need or if anything is bothering them. Monthly e-mails have been surprisingly successful.

Fair Compensation

Fair compensation was another factor highlighted by our associate doctors. Ensuring that our doctors feel they are being paid fairly for their hard work is essential. This includes transparency in how they are compensated and making sure their pay reflects their contributions to the practice.

Associates want to see that their efforts and expertise are recognized and rewarded appropriately. We pay a percentage of the monies collected from the patients they see. They tell me they really like this, including how they can look daily to see how they are doing.

Building a Supportive Work Environment

Overall, the survey reaffirmed the importance of creating a supportive work environment where associate doctors feel valued and appreciated. This involves not only fair compensation, but also active listening, acting on their feedback and standing up for them when necessary.

We constantly strive to make sure our associate doctors realize how much they mean to us and how valuable they are to us personally and professionally. We can always do better!

Laurie Sorrenson, OD, FAAO, is president of Lakeline Vision Source in Cedar Park, Texas, and the Professional Editor of Review of Optometric Business (ROB). To contact her:


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