It seems like independent eye doctors had it made back in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. The way the older doctors talk, it sounds like all they had to do was graduate from medical school, hang out a shingle and the patients would stream in.
Not so fast. While the business and clinical parts make owning a practice so appealing, it is important to remember that every time period has it challenges. It is no secret that optometry and ophthalmology have their share of successful independent practices, yet there were times when the owners had to spend late nights paying the bills because he or she wasn’t making enough to afford an office manager. Not to mention, the doctor having to make numerous phone calls to vendors and patients in between seeing patients.
The point is that entrepreneurship isn’t as easy as it seems. For every story of an entrepreneur who started a business with little to no money, there were those who were able to access family and friends for capital and connections.To paraphrase Seinfeld, not that there’s anything wrong with having a network that you can go for both material and knowledge resources. Isn’t that why people network in the first place?
For those taking the independent practice route, it can seem like you are the only one struggling while other eye doctors are able to make enough money that they don’t have to see patients every day. Before you beat yourself up, know that the problem isn’t with you. A quick win doesn’t come for everyone and many go through setbacks. Owning an independent practice isn’t like owning an ATM, it is more like a garden that you need to cultivate.
To that end, seek out both colleagues and older eye doctors to find out what works for them and pick up what you can use in your practice. Don’t just seek business knowledge from other doctors. Take the time to read both clinical and business articles. They have information on both business practices and the latest medical information that you can use to better treat patients and run your practice.
In the course of running the practice and seeing patients, don’t forget to make time for fun activities and hobbies. It is important to carve out some time for yourself. Work can be consuming, especially when it involves some as fascinating as the human eye. Taking the time to recharge not only makes you feel good, it helps to prevent burnout. Asking patients to read the third line on the eye chart every day, no matter how many interesting answers you get, can get old and exasperating.
Of course, if you are one of those doctors who don’t want to own a practice and would rather work for someone else or work in academia, that’s good, too. The life of an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone and you’re no slacker for choosing the employee or academic path.