While scrolling through social media, I often come across posts from optometrists asking if they should recommend optometry to their children, or if other OD’s would “do it all again” knowing what they know now. The responses are always interesting — there is quite a range from “absolutely not!” to “100% yes,” and I love hearing the stories people share about their career choice and what it means to them.
I think about my own self, with two young boys — many years away from making a career choice, but as we know, time goes fast. Would I recommend that either or both follow me into optometry, knowing what I know now? Would I instead recommend they follow another path? Would I do it all again?
Not surprisingly, if you know me, you know the answer. Optometry has been and continues to be an incredible career choice, and I am continuously thankful for the choice I made. I definitely don’t wear rose colored glasses and know the challenges we all face in our profession. With all the negatives I continue to read on social media, why is it still “worth it” to me?
Career Choices: Often, students think that clinical care is the only path in optometry. I have been fortunate to create a career in optometry in addition to (and currently instead of) patient care, and it continues to be exciting, fun, and challenging. Outside of seeing patients, optometrists have a plethora of options and opportunities. This can include presenting, consulting, writing, teaching, working for an industry company as a medical liaison or speaker, doing research, or taking on an executive role. Many optometrists are looking for ways to supplement their income in addition to patient care, and we have some amazing ways we can continue to be part of optometry outside of our practices.
Community: I am continuously amazed by the support and drive the optometry world has. This was evident this past year when one state in particular faced a political challenge that could affect us all. They banded together as a state and garnered support from all over the country to keep optometry strong. We also see this in states where associations and groups continue to evolve what it means to practice optometry by increasing our scope of practice. We have come a long way and have a long way to go, but we are stronger together.
Financial: While this is an often hotly debated topic on social media, by and large, optometrists are fortunate to have an opportunity to be financially secure and stable. In addition to revenue generated from our exam fees, we can increase our revenue in other businesses in our practices, including contact lenses, optical, specialty care, and medical care. Many enterprising ODs also own and manage multiple practices and own their real estate, which can be lucrative as well.
Freedom of Choice: What I am most inspired by is the movement I see in optometry today. You have met, and will meet, many optometrists who have decided that the way things have always been done is not for them, and they are setting on their own paths towards building the practices they want. This may include dropping some or all insurances, being thoughtful about the vendors and companies they partner with, adding niches or specialties, and being honest and upfront with their patients and their communities about why they are choosing to practice this way. It continues to be refreshing and exciting to see the changes these practices have made, and how they are adapting the field of optometry to fit their lives — and not the reverse.
So, knowing all this, would I do it all over again? I graduated from NECO in 2007, and optometry and the world have faced some changes and challenges in that time. Yet every day, I wake up thankful for my career choice, excited to inspire and innovate, and ready for what is next.
Yours in success,
Jennifer L. Stewart, OD