Teaching the Fundamentals
Technician Training: Teaching the Fundamentals
PART 3: A few organizational steps can smooth out programs
Myra Nisly Cherchio, COMT
In the first two articles of this series, we discussed strategies for selecting the best technician candidates, imparting corporate culture, and how to train many of the intangible skills of a highperforming technician. The last installment of the series will focus on teaching what I refer to as the “mechanics” of the role.
Train and Entertain
Let’s face it: most of the material fundamental to training technicians is extremely dry. Optics principles simply don’t hold the attention of many of our new hires. I’ve watched very bright, energetic trainees quickly fade when we discuss the components of a refraction. This challenge has grown more apparent in recent years as we hire employees who are accustomed to using screens rather than books for education. Our continual challenge is to keep the material interesting and engaging. We’ve had to learn to think out-of-the-box, make training more interactive, and incorporate technology.
Today, many available resources can explain complex concepts while keeping our staff interested. We developed our training plan by incorporating material from a variety of sources. These are some that we’ve found most effective:
■ The Ophthobook (ophthobook.com): This online resource is the brainchild of Timothy Root, MD. Dr. Root has developed a comprehensive library of video lectures sure to hold anyone’s attention. In addition to his lively video lectures, his online book details concepts essential to the ophthalmic technician in an entertaining and interesting manner. Each chapter is illustrated and has links to an accompanying video lecture. Dr. Root also has a print version of the OphthoBook available for purchase. The Ophthobook has become an integral part of our program.
■ BSM Consulting (BSMConsulting.com, membership subscription required): We make this online resource available to all of our clinical staff, and have incorporated many of its courses into our training program. Not only does the BSM Consulting site provide a comprehensive library of reference materials, once certified, technicians can received CE credits for completing online courses.
■ Ophthalmic Medical Assisting: An Independent Study Course: This is a valuable starting point for any new technician. We require new technicians to pass the accompanying exam within the first three months of employment.
■ Ophthalmic Medical Assistant: Now in its ninth edition, this volume is a mainstay of our training and preparation for certification exams. It is a valued reference tool for staff members as they learn advanced concepts.
■ JCAHPO & ATPO Pocket Guide: Our new technicians are delighted when we provide them with this handy reference. It contains quickly accessible “shortcuts” to many concepts that new technicians must commit to memory.
■ Dictionary of Eye Terminology: This is a goto resource for our staff. It contains virtually every ophthalmic term staffers need to know and understand when working with patients.
■ Phoropter simulator: New staff members can test their refracting skills on a computer to gain confidence before working with patients.
We make sure all of the printed resources are readily available to our staff. Over the years, we have developed a library of these and other reference materials, and continually buy additional copies as needed to make sure everyone has access.
Develop a Syllabus
After you’ve identified the resources for your program, you’ll need a training strategy. We believe it’s key to our technicians’ successful learning to develop a systematic formula for teaching the material. The syllabus we developed lists skills that will be covered each day along with accompanying resources. We have a dedicated trainer whose primary responsibility is to provide a consistent learning experience for new staff. Our program includes one-on-one instruction, demonstration, independent study and hands-on learning. Our trainer follows a syllabus that details a plan for each day over a period of six weeks.
Establish Measures of Accountability and Provide Timely Feedback
Establishing measures of accountability is another important component of our training program. We wanted to increase the level of accountability of our trainees and help them understand their responsibility in this process. This also gives them a solid measure up-front of our expectations. The trainees are scored on daily accountability standards. Those standards are reviewed with the employee on a daily basis. We feel it is important to provide timely and specific feedback at this early stage in our trainees’ development. Our evaluation process helps us identify strengths and weakness early on and gives us a better sense of our technicians’ best utilization.
Our trainer provides these evaluations to the clinical supervisor. This gives the supervisor continual feedback of the technician’s progress and provides insight into each technician’s post-training support and development.
It’s Not Over
We explain to our trainees that completion of our training program is just the beginning. Each day is an opportunity to absorb and apply new concepts. When we push our trainees out of the nest, we stress the most important skill they can apply is “know when to ask the question.” While we encourage technicians to develop decision-making skills based on what they’ve learned, we also encourage them to pause before volunteering information they are not certain of to patients.
We recently implemented a mentoring program, modeled, in part, by the program developed by our friends at Cincinnati Eye. After completion of training, we pair the new technician with an advanced technician who works directly with the doctor. The advanced technician has the opportunity to utilize the trainee to fill rooms, perform basic tasks and make their job easier. In return, the advanced technician works with the trainee to develop their understanding of principles such as chart documentation, pathology, surgical procedures and anatomy.
The most valuable opportunity for the new technician is to actively learn while listening to the doctor interact with patients. This part of our program has been a huge success and a tremendous opportunity for new staff to develop relationships with our physicians while they learn. OP
||Ms. Nisly Cherchio is the director of clinical operations at St. Lukes Cataract & Laser Institute in Tarpon Springs, FL. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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