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Top tips to lower test times in your Optical Job by Jason Searle

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Top Tips for Lowering Test Times (Part 2)

Last month I provided some tips to improve your testing routine and work as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately one article wasn't quite enough to cover all the little tips I have picked up during my transition from pre-registration student, to newly qualified and now  operating fully in my optical job.


  1. Visions – Fewer Letters the Better

One area that used to really slow me up was taking of visions. My 6/4 patient would sit there, I'd cover up their left eye and they would read all the letters all the way from the top to the bottom. All 44 letters. I'd then cover their right eye and they'd do exactly the same. Without the experience, or knowing how to tactfully interrupt them to guide them, visions would take me 2-3 minutes and I would feel pressured to make-up the time else where.


This is where less becomes more. Get them looking towards the “lowest line of letters” that they can read. Sometimes point to a line to prompt them (usually the line above their best last exam, found on the records).  If you have an electronic chart, bring up only the smallest and increase them in size until they can read them. This saves time as they won't be reading all the letters that aren't relevant to the test – and won't fatigue the patient either!


  1. Know Your Record Card

Record cards are incredibly important in your appointment, providing a way to document your encounter for patient care, as well as provide a safeguard for you legally should a complaint be made. As I locum, I work in a variety of practices and have used a range of record cards. Not knowing the layout of the card so that you can appropriately record your findings can be a real sticking point. Get to know the records and you'll start to shave a minute or two off of your test time.


  1. Perfect Your Patter

Knowing what to say is a major part of the optometrist job. Being able to know what to say and when will make you appear more professional and also stop you from waffling.  I have slowly built up a repertoire of analogies for explaining common eye conditions over time and know them by heart.  Some people are good at creating these analogies on the spot, but taking the time to rehearse an explanation will let you say it coherently, confidently and save a lot of “umming” and “ahhing” as you try to piece together a complex, jargon-filled process into something understandable to the general public. 


  1. Knowing When To Abandon Procedures

Sometimes a test just doesn't work. Be it due to the science behind the test, or the patient themselves forcing you towards your objective measurements. For instance, I like to use the retinoscope on every patient. If I don't see the reflex of my 6/60, pin-pricked pupiled 97-year old with dense cataracts, I won't spend the next 10 minutes trying different working distances or struggle through to get a result. Abandon and move on (but note that you attempted without success).


For an aspiring young optometrist, it can be hard to admit defeat. In some cases you have to to keep the test flowing and not exhaust your patients. It is actually a strong trait of a good professional to know when to call it quits and move on – preferably utilising another technique to aid the results you were unable to take.


  1. Teamwork

You should always remember that you are part of a team. Without you, there would be no eye testing, but without your receptionists there would be nobody to book your appointments and register your patients. Without your optical assistants and dispensing optician, dispensing jobs would fall to you.  Treat all with respect and help them with both admin and optical jobs where you can (not hide away in our test room).


Why have I factored this in to this blog about test times? Well, being on the good side of your team can be beneficial – they can explain to patients if you are running behind, prepare your patients by conducting pre-testing procedures (in some cases) and even be there to turn to help should you need them (such as printer running out of paper, patient needing a glass of water or even help the patient pick out new frames and explain lenses whilst they wait for you to finish with your current patient).


Sometimes the most efficient optometrists run behind, be it due to an emergency referral, an unexpected urgent dilation or a complicated case – having a team that supports you in this way can help, but it really is a two-way relationship.


These were 5 more tips on how to lower your testing times in your routine, helping you become a more efficient optometrist. Let us know how you like to make the most of your clinic time and feel free to share with me any other tips you may have in the comments below.

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