What to evaluate when deciding where to practice
The salary for optometrists in your desired region is a good place to start. Pure economic consideration of the fair market value of your labor as a clinician is a helpful bellwether of the practice environment. There are a variety sources of to find salary information: American Optometric Association Survey data, MGMA physician compensation and productivity, as well as salary.com and payscale.com. Keep in mind that these sources don’t tell you how many job openings actually exist in those markets!! The ability to find a position which pays your wage value is equally important as the salary statistic itself. Hunting for optometry jobs in conjunction with evaluation of salary information will tell how reliable those sources actually are. In some saturated markets it may even make more sense to buy into an optometric practice. A job opportunity or practice startup may simply be unfeasible. In addition to provider supply and practice options, also consider the relative demand for vision care services.
So you’ve decided to start your private practice
Optometry school may not have prepared you for practice ownership but don’t worry excessively about this. Many practice management consultants preach doom and gloom when it comes to business acumen. There are plenty of resources available for those who want to learn small business management; every practice at its core operates similarly to many other small businesses. Deciding whether your personal inclination is suited to this type of operation is another matter. The key is to have a mind-set which is open to learning and growing through all experiences, even the painful ones. Apply yourself and learn to be the best optometry practice manager in the same way you dedicated yourself to the study of vision care.
Get busy and learn the vision care market
Being informed about the ever-changing market for optometric services in your market will be as important as staying abreast of the latest and greatest clinical applications in your field. It may be a challenging realization at first, but recognize that you now have two fulltime roles now: Entrepreneur and Optometrist. The good news is that the demand for vision care services is expected to continue growing. Market expansion has been attributable to economic growth, patient demographics, wider scope of services offered by optometrists, public awareness, and increased vision care health coverage. The ophthalmic market is affected by changes in population, utilization of vision care services, and the rate of dispensing of ophthalmic lenses. Expansion is expected to continue as the average annual population growth rate remains at 1% through 2030. The demand for all providers in this realm (optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians) is also expected to grow. And for those optometrists who can run successful practices, earnings can be realized far in excess of what employed providers can make.
There is plenty of opportunity
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, ~25 percent of optometrists are self-employed. A survey by the American Optometric Association (2008) showed that most self-employed optometrists worked in private practice or in partnership with other healthcare professionals. A smaller number worked for optical chains and franchises or as independent contractors. While the healthcare environment may seem a bit scary at times, there is plenty of opportunity for optometrists. Regardless of whether you opt for a job, start-up cold, or practice purchase, consider all alternatives before jumping in with both feet. Also rest assured that the availability of financing for optometrists is available at all stages of practice.