Joining a Practice
Becoming an associate or a partner in an established practice is one of the most common ways to begin a career in optometry.
While joining a practice might seem less complicated than starting a new practice, this option involves a variety of important considerations. Recent graduates and young doctors of optometry need to learn a lot about joining a practice in order to evaluate its ability to support an associate.
The AOA supports those joining an optometric practice and assists with matters like negotiating basics for employment contracts, tackling legal issues, reviewing methods of income division and making a partnership work.
Tips for joining a practice for recent optometry school graduates and new doctors of optometry
- Find the practice that is the best fit. There are hundreds of practices that are eager to help new doctors of optometry advance their careers. As you begin your career search, think about factors such as location, salary, benefits, and scope of practice and how those factors will help you decide whether you’d like to apply to join a practice. Get a head start and begin searching the open positions in the Career Center to get an idea of what opportunities are available to you and to help you identify which practices you might be interested in applying to. You can search open positions here.
- Determine whether you will need to obtain malpractice insurance. In some instances, your employer may cover the cost of your malpractice insurance, but in many cases, it will be your responsibilty to obtain malpractice insurance on your own. If you ae a new doctor of optometry. you may qualify for a 50% discount on malpractice insurance in your first year of practice or a 25% discount in your second year of practice with AOAExcel's endorsed business and liability insurance provider, Lockton Affinity. Learn more about malpractice insurance.
- Identify whether the practice you are planning to join offers retirement planning options. While many practices may offer a 401(k) or other retirement plan, you may need to look into your own retirement savings planning options. As you are starting out your career in optometry, retirement may seem a long way off, but now is an excellent time to plan for your financial future. Learn more about retirement savings planning.
- Get legal advice when drafting your employment contract. Once you have determined that the practice is right for you, a basic issue you’ll need to deal with is your employment contract. It would be unwise to enter into any arrangement without first working out a written contract. The importance of competent legal advice cannot be overemphasized. Accountants, financial advisers, bankers and estate planners also can help you. Under no circumstances should you attempt to write your own legal document.
- Find assistance with negotiating tactics. Negotiation will play a central role in your ability to form a successful relationship with a practicing doctor of optometry.Preliminary steps include looking at practices long before your graduation. It will help you to better understand yourself, others and the wide range of opportunities and differences within the profession.
- Get help determining your negotiation goals. To discuss a contract seriously, you need to establish a minimum income level and a strong concept of the practice arrangement you would like to have. Remember, however, that negotiation also involves ompromise. Here is a great piece on how to negotiate a contract.
- Learn why it’s important to take the initiative. It’s to your advantage to take the initiative in presenting the first draft of the contract. By being proactive, you may be able to include provisions favorable to you that might not otherwise have been considered.
Evaluation and management (E/M) services are incredibly important in patient care, and it’s critical that optometry practices are aware of changes ahead. Meanwhile, the AOA and other leading physician organizations are pushing legislation that would halt Medicare payment cuts resulting from the changes.
The moratorium on loan repayment is scheduled to expire Dec. 31. The average optometry student’s loan debt when they graduate is close to $200,000, and the AOA and the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) argue that the relief makes a difference to current optometry students and doctors of optometry continuing to pay student loans. The AOA is working to ensure concerns of doctors of optometry nationwide are front and center.
The advocacy collaborative fighting for patient safety and the doctor-patient relationship reports on a productive 2020, despite COVID-19 challenges, and recently welcomed Alcon as its newest member.