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    Why it’s OK to be bossy

    The views expressed here belong to the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Optometry Times or UBM Medica.

    When I got out of school, I looked 15 years old. I had elderly patients leaving the practice so often, my employer actually framed my resume for people to read before they saw my face. I wore suits for the majority of my first 10 years in practice. I focused on children because they thought I was the babysitter. (How bad could I be? The light on my head was really cool.) 

    I had an opinion on what was best for my patients, but back then I did not strongly voice that opinion. I was more concerned with not having patients leave. I had a checklist of diagnoses that I had to identify and treat without the help of a preceptor to be comfortable. I had the luxury of being an instructor at Indiana University School of Optometry, so that list went pretty quickly. Before long, I felt comfortable with patient care in my suit or long lab coat with a huge nametag identifying me as the doctor. I held my breath and counted to three every time I was asked, “When will the doctor see me?”  

    More from Dr. Swartz: Why optometrists are awesome

    Learning to sound like a boss lady

    With experience comes comfort in one’s decisions and familiarity with clinical cases such that I firmly believed I was smarter than my non-eye doctor patients. Although I cannot say this about some of my engineering/physics brainiacs when discussing LASIK technology, I think we are all a step ahead of our patients despite their ability to Google symptoms on their iPhones. 

    I remember when my patients stopped asking how old I was or how long I had been practicing, and started saying, “You look like you are in high school, but you sound like you are 35.” I stopped wearing suits. I reveled in my wrinkles, and learned to sound like the boss lady. Instead of my staff calling the police, I called them myself. Rather than asking for someone to be fired, I fired her.

    With experience, we all think faster, assess the situation more calmly, and feel better equipped to be the boss. If I have a patient who is not taking his medication as prescribed or a parent failing to patching her child as I ordered, I feel confident in directing them. If a patient overwears his contact lenses or has a history of retinal degeneration and refuses dilation, I can maturely address his concerns. 

    Next: We're supposed to be bossy

    Tracy Schroeder Swartz, OD, MS, FAAO
    Tracy Schroeder Swartz currently practices at Madison Eye Care Center in Madison, Alabama. She serves as Education Chair for the ...


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