We all know amazing technicians who work up twice as many patients as the average technician. They are always a step ahead and know what to do next to keep clinic moving, almost like a super power. Physician chats too long with patients or disappears into his/her office? Never fear, super tech is here.
When I first started in ophthalmology, I was envious. How did super technicians do it? Did they gain powers from an asteroid hyalosis (see what I did there?) falling to Earth or exposure to radioactive waste (ICD-10 W88.1XXA)? By observing them, I learned the secret. They simply do a few things differently than the average technician. Fast work ups, accuracy, and detail are vital, but what sets these technicians apart is the desire to tackle whatever needs to be done and always put patients first.
Let’s review a few tips that can help you become the tech I know you can be.
1. Be aware of time.
The best techs pride themselves on providing quality care to every patient. This does not mean long patient conversations, which are not necessary and lengthen work up times.
Super techs are productive because they recognize time constraints in relation to patient load. Techs can provide a pleasant interaction, without compromising quality, by directing the conversation to the task at hand. If the patient denies a problem, keep the conversation moving — a complaint may come to light at a later point in the work up.
2. Be efficient in executing your exam.
Super techs recognize the connection between different aspects of the exam. For example: They perform all testing that requires the patient to wear glasses first, regardless of the order in which they need to document in the chart. This saves time, as it keeps the patient from having to take glasses on and off repeatedly, which can really slow the exam down.
3. Keep an eye on the big picture.
Super techs are always aware of the overall clinic flow and keep an eye out for open exam rooms that need to be loaded. If a room is empty, the tech will locate the next patient and escort him/her to the room. Some practices assign this to a scribe, but super techs will take on this duty without prompting.
4. Be a team player.
Teamwork is essential to efficiency. For example, the doctor is most efficient when he/she has a scribe. If the scribe has to continuously leave the doctor to locate and seat patients, it slows the doctor. It is only possible to avoid this situation when team players offer to load the empty exam rooms and seat the next patient.
A team player will also do something as simple turning on the equipment for an unscheduled test, performing the test if time allows, and/or helping to escort a finished patient out of the exam room so another patient can be loaded.
5. Take ownership.
The success of the clinic is not only a reflection of the physicians but also of the staff. The super technician ensures that the clinic runs smoothly and always makes the patient the top priority. That often means multi-tasking. Even if he/she is assigned to scribe that day, the outstanding technician will jump in and work up patients when there are no patients ready to see the doctor. Non-emergent items, such as refills and return phone calls, can wait. The patients waiting to be seen should always come first.
6. Use down time effectively.
After ensuring rooms are loaded and patients are worked up, super techs make good use of down time by helping to scribe, refilling prescriptions, confirming appointments, returning phone/email messages and/or assisting with imaging … all while keeping an eye on the physician’s lanes.
7. Utilize critical thinking.
Most questions that technicians interrupt the physician to ask are typically things techs can answer themselves by evaluating all the information and then putting the pieces together. This way, the tech does not interrupt the doctor until first giving thought to the process. Then, the tech can explain why he/she is still undecided or may have a suggestion about the course of action.
- A patient presents with a red eye and floaters. Even though dilation is needed to examine the floaters, an experienced tech recognizes that the red eye might preclude dilation until the doctor examines the anterior segment. Rather than dilate the patient or make the patient wait twice to see the doctor, the tech shows that he/she has thought about the process and asks, “Dr. X, would you like to examine the anterior segment for cell/flare prior to dilation on this red eye patient with floaters?” The physician will appreciate the tech thinking about the exam process and trying to save the patient time.
- A one-month status post-cataract surgery patient is only correctable to 20/30 with refractometry. There is no chart notation of pre-existing ocular pathology that would prevent the patient from being correctable to 20/20. Rather than dilate the patient and have them wait to see the doctor, then likely being sent to have a macula OCT, then back to see the doctor, again, the tech asks, “Dr. X, would you like me to send this patient for a macula OCT since he is one-month post op and not correctable to 20/20?” This shows that the tech recognized the likely possibility of CME and attempted to save both the doctor and the patient time.
8. Pay attention to details.
Being efficient requires inherent attention to detail. It is most efficient to check the supplies in all the exam rooms before clinic starts for the day to ensure that you do not run out necessary items, which can lead to interruptions in exams. Those seconds add up at the end of the day.
9. Maintain a clean and neat appearance.
Super techs take pride in the appearance and cleanliness of his/her surroundings. Exam rooms should be as clean for the last patient as they were for the first. Techs should maintain the rooms throughout the day, not allow counters to become cluttered with supplies, and clean the room as they move through the exam, even while a patient is seated in the chair. Other duties include picking up used tissues and returning items such as the BAT and tonometer to their designated areas. This also prevents other technicians from having to hunt down equipment.
10. Be consistent.
When all exam rooms are stocked identically, everyone can always find what they need. By performing every exam consistently, they develop a routine that will help to ensure patients receive the same level of care throughout the day. Develop an efficient routine and stick with it. Benchmarks indicate that technicians should be able to perform a complete exam work-up, including refractometry, in approximately 16.5 minutes (2009 ASOA Technician Benchmarking Survey compiled by Jane T. Shuman, COT, COE, OCS of Eyetechs and Derek Preece of BSM Consulting).
11. Continue to learn.
I often see technicians pick continuing education courses that they consider easy. They simply want to get the credit and be done. This is a disservice to them and your patients. It is a privilege to be chosen to participate in someone’s health care.
We owe it to ourselves, our patients, and employers to be the best techs we can be.
Super techs keep an eye on everything that goes on around them, at all times. They are always efficient and accurate and have a thorough understanding of how all areas of the clinic operate.
You can become a super technician by being willing to keep patients flowing, without being asked, and learning about the roles of your coworkers. Ask to be cross-trained so that you can start contributing to those other areas of the clinic that you are not yet familiar with. By following these tips, you will achieve to super tech status in no time. OP