Embracing the journey

September 27, 2023
The AOA’s 2023 Paraoptometric of the Year says certification was the first step in propelling her career forward—and fueling a passion for the profession.
Brandy Yeack: AOA Para of the Year

Brandy Yeack, CPOA, is not only good at seeing opportunities but also making them a reality.

Coming to Valley Eye Care in Oregon as a nurse’s assistant in 2015, Yeack says practice co-owner James Hale, O.D., “took a chance” on her when she joined the team as an optometric assistant—and that opportunity quickly paid off for both Yeack and the practice.

Now serving as office manager for their 20-employee-strong team, Yeack leads with professionalism and an unwavering focus on patient well-being.

“When we succeed as providers, it’s because of the staff who supported us beforehand,” Dr. Hale told attendees at Optometry’s Meeting® 2023. “Brandy is one of those people who always provides that support and brings the team together to provide support for each other.”

That level of support extends beyond Valley Eye Care, too. Since attending her first Vision Source meeting, Yeack pursued the opportunity to become a facilitator, a role she’s described as a “dream come true.” Realizing this opportunity, Yeack now coaches and supports paraoptometric staff across 70 Vision Source practices in her region while also lecturing and providing support at a national level.

In an excerpt from an interview with AOA Focus, the AOA’s 2023 Paraoptometric of the Year talks about her career journey and the power of paraoptometric connections.

Describe your career transformation.

In 2015, I felt I needed a more meaningful career—a place to call home—and the opportunity to make a positive impact. I was surrounded by the realities of end-of-life care, and I sought to immerse myself in a world focused on improving lives. Determined to find the right fit, I applied for every medical office position I could. Dr. Hale saw something in me that I could not fully recognize in myself—the potential to

excel in this amazing career. With a background as a nurse’s assistant, I had the attributes necessary to be a paraoptometric, such as a compassionate bedside manner, fluency in medical terminology and dedication to caring for others. I also have learned invaluable lessons: the significance of empathy in patient care, the power of a positive attitude and the rewards of going above and beyond for others. My journey from being a nurse’s assistant to this point has been both gratifying and enlightening, and I am eager to continue to grow in my career as a paraoptometric.

How does networking make a difference for yourself and others?

Networking has had a profound impact on my life, and it holds the potential to make a significant difference for other paraoptometrics, too. Learning from experienced individuals has been a driving force behind my growth and development. The wisdom shared by those who have spent years in the optometric field has been a constant source of inspiration. Hearing about their triumphs and even their setbacks has been instrumental in shaping my own journey. The mentors I’ve encountered throughout this remarkable networking experience are truly invaluable. Their guidance, support and insights have played a crucial role in who I have become today. Without the power of networking, I wonder how I would have met these influential figures and how I would have achieved the level of personal and professional growth that I’ve experienced. The connections I’ve made are lasting and profound, and they extend far beyond mere business acquaintances. I firmly believe that networking can be a transformative force for other paraoptometrics.

Why would you encourage paraoptometric staff to seek certification?

Encouraging other paraoptometrics to pursue certification is a pivotal step toward professional growth and excellence in the field of optometry. Certification represents a tangible commitment to expanding one’s knowledge and expertise while providing exceptional patient care. By obtaining certification, you demonstrate a dedication to staying updated with industry advancements, ensuring that your patients receive the highest standard of care possible. Personally, obtaining my CPO certification marked the first step in propelling my career forward and fueling my passion for this profession. It enabled me to provide the best possible care for my patients and ignited a deeper sense of purpose. Subsequently, obtaining my CPOA certification further fueled my passion and highlighted the significance of continuous education in making a profound difference in people’s lives. From my perspective, I believe that every single staff member in the optometry office should strive to be at least CPO certified. Embracing paraoptometric certification empowers everyone to grow professionally, elevate their contributions and ultimately enhance the overall quality of patient care.

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