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Staff Training: The Basics


A well-trained staff is the hallmark of a high producing office that consistently exceeds patient expectations. A highly trained staff makes fewer mistakes, operates more efficiently, and relies less on you for constant management.


The most common excuse I hear for an undertrained staff is time. We don’t have time to keep training people! For many practices, the reason they don’t have time is because they are spending all their time fixing mistakes and putting out fires that resulted from a lack of training.

Below is a 3-step process for training employees. Educate, demonstrate, and then become the student.



Thoroughly educate the employee on all their duties. For example, if you are training a tech to do a specific test on a patient, then don’t just explain “how” to do the test, but also the reason for the test and what you are checking for. For non-testing responsibilities, you’ll still offer a lot of educating on the what and the why, not just the how. When employees are unable to explain test procedures or answer patient questions, it reflects poorly on the practice.



Demonstrate how to do the tasks. Give the employee a notebook to take notes and encourage questions. The notebook will also serve as a good reference for the employee to refer back to. Periodically quiz the trainee on things you have taught. Be patient. You will likely have to re-explain things. Trainees will often nod their head up and down during training, but this doesn’t always mean they are comprehending what you are saying.


Become the Student

The best way to learn something new and have it “stick” is to teach it to someone else. Have the employee do a test on you or perform a task while you watch, explaining the process to you as they do it. As before, ask questions to ensure adequate understanding of the task. Until the employee can successfully perform a task without your assistance, don’t assume they have mastered the task.


I will add that having a system for training usually yields better results than a less structured approach. A scattered approach to training and trying to teach too much at once can be very overwhelming to a new hire, especially one without experience in the eye care field. I would rather take a slow and methodical approach with training to ensure competency than a rapid-fire approach to training that results in constantly having to fix mistakes and put out fires.

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Steve Vargo

Steve Vargo

Steve Vargo, OD, MBA is a 1998 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry. After working in clinical optometric practice for several years, Dr. Vargo pursued his passion for practice management by earning his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix in 2008. A published author and speaker with 15 years of clinical experience, he serves as IDOC’s Optometric Practice Management Consultant. Dr. Vargo advises optometric alliance members in all areas of practice management and optometric office operations.