Tools of engagement: Enrolling staff as AOA associate members leads to practice success

March 30, 2017
Paraoptometric associate membership jumped by nearly 8% in a single year.

In early March, William Tantum, O.D., practice director and CEO of Blount County Eye Center in Maryville, Tennessee, enrolled almost all of his paraoptometric staff as AOA associate members.

A total of 20 staff members from Blount County Eye Center's front office, its clinic and optical shop were enrolled.  

"I have a large staff and a lot of young staff, so finding resources for them is a key part of their development," says Dr. Tantum. "There aren't a whole lot of quality resources out there for optometric staff, and the ones that are available usually are cost-prohibitive when you have 20-plus staff members."  

He adds, "I'm already paying to be in the AOA, so why not add my staff, too? If it has useful tools and allows them to feel connected to this profession, then it's a no-brainer."  

Associate membership growing

More AOA-member doctors of optometry are taking advantage of this membership benefit—they can enroll their paraoptometric staff at no additional costs as AOA associate members, giving them access to a number of staff development tools.  

Since March 24, 2016, AOA associate membership has soared by nearly 8%. Currently, 10,993 individuals have been enrolled as associate members by 2,754 doctors. 

Associate member benefits, available through the Paraoptometric Resource Center, include:

  • Online continuing education (CE) articles worth six hours of CE credits.
  • Paraoptometric Skill Builder® Beginner Level 1 program.
  • Access to member-only web pages
  • Discounted fees for paraoptometric education material.
  • Reduced registration fees for Optometry's Meeting®.

Dr. Tantum's practice is among the latest to enroll.

"My hope is that it will benefit the practice by having staff trained to the highest possible level," Dr. Tantum says. "A stagnant staff can hurt a practice. You have to always find new ways to engage people to remind them that what we do here each day is so much larger than ourselves or this one building we practice in."  

Easy to enroll  

To enroll staff as associate members:

  1. Make sure you have the legal name of the staff member (as it appears on their driver's license), their date of birth and an email addresses unique to each staff person.
  2. Go to to enroll online.
  3. Hover over the 'Optometrist' tab at the top of the page and click on the 'My Profile/My AOA' selection.
  4. Click the 'Manage Staff' tab.
  5. Enter information for each non-doctor staff member you wish to enroll.

Associate membership will automatically renew each year as long as the staff member remains employed by the AOA-member doctor. Learn more about optometric staff development tools

Reaping the benefits

Years ago, when Sally Greeley, CPOT, approached Richard Smart, O.D., who practices in Maine, about working toward her certification, she found him willing.

"When I approached Dr. Smart to become certified, he was very supportive and has been ever since," says Greeley, 2017 AOA Paraoptometric of the Year. "Being an associate member has some great benefits that I take advantage of every year."  

"Sally is a great example of how associate membership has contributed to our practice success," Dr. Smart says.  

The AOA has many resources that support staff development. And well-trained staff are likely to go above and beyond to make sure patients are receiving the best care and experience possible, Dr. Smart says.  

"One of the primary reasons they perform this way is because they know I go beyond in my efforts to train and empower them," Dr. Smart says. "This dynamic results in better patient outcomes, which results in a thriving, successful practice."

He adds, "By including them in our professional organization (AOA), my staff receives the latest information on patient care concepts and practice management issues. It enhances their ability to network with fellow paraoptometric staff around the country, enhances their skills and provides exposure to issues that are important to our practice and patient outcomes. It also enhances their self-image of health care professionals, which is always important to self fulfillment and career satisfaction. We all win."

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