Viewpoint from the Editor

Somewhere under the radar

As I note in this month’s cover feature on our annual Ophthalmic Professional Subscriber Survey (see p. 12), ophthalmic assisting is a career that rides under the radar. It’s a field that many of us have found by chance, and judging from the responses to our survey in this and past years, it might well be considered a golden needle found in the career haystack. Consider just a few of the benefits of a career as an ophthalmic professional:

Career longevity. About one third of the respondents report they have worked as an ophthalmic professional for more than 30 years, with 92% of this group continuing to work full time. About 75% of the respondents tell us that they have worked in ophthalmic-related positions for more than 15 years.

Innovation and job satisfaction. I once heard that after decades of stagnation, ophthalmology is one of the most innovative medical disciplines. There is a great deal of research into diseases, which creates new diagnostics and therapies — in other words, there is always something to learn and to challenge us.

These factors coupled with the desire to help people are often the reasons why friends recommend the field to others. In fact, more than 90% of the respondents to the survey reported they were “extremely likely” or “somewhat likely” to recommend an ophthalmic career to others.

A great career, but...

It’s gratifying to see such a positive response to the profession, but that’s only half the story. While we enjoy a meaningful, fulfilling career where, collectively, we impact the health, happiness, and vision of millions, we face a shortage of qualified workers and escalating workloads. More than 90% of respondents say they have more work this year than in the past year.

In light of a limited number of accredited ophthalmic assisting programs in the United States, administrators and doctors are beginning to wonder who will replace their current techs as they decide to retire. This staffing challenge becomes more serious when one considers the candidate pool — the jobless rate reached a 49-year low in April (3.7%), which was unchanged in May.

The solutions to this challenge (in particular, outreach and additional training programs) could open doors to thousands of others who might take an interest in our rewarding career path. That’s a win for our patients, our practices, and all those who work alongside us, both now and in the future. OP