Is Training Necessary?

The short answer is yes, the long answer is if it is done right. In the United States, approximately 135 billion dollars is spent each year on training new and existing employees. The cost of training is unavoidable in any industry but what sets successful programs apart is how your organization measures success. Studies show training programs that focus on empowering individuals to continually meet their professional goals increases employee satisfaction and decreases turnover rates.

What does a successful in-house training program look like in ophthalmology? Success is defined by results, and in a clinic that can be measured by how efficient and proficient your technicians are at workups. There are those that assume the technician with 15 years of experience who never underwent a formal training program should be more proficient than the technician that was recently trained on the job.  This is simply not true in all cases. Time and time again technicians who undergo a formal training program are more proficient at understanding the “why” behind the skills they perform. A technician who understands the why behind the skill of checking an angle is far less likely to dilate a narrow angle patient than a technician who simply goes through the motions. This can be said for every skill set in a typical work-up. A proficient technician will naturally be more efficient on the clinic floor and provide a confident patient experience.

A formal training program gives the technician a reasonable amount of time to acquire the knowledge to perform the complex skills we are asking them to do. Moreover, it rewards each technician after they have learned and successfully performed skills. Reward systems can look different at each practice and do not need to be monetary. Something as simple as group recognition can be a motivation to continue learning.  It is important the person or people responsible for training to be clear on expectations, rewards and timelines with each technician at the start of the training program.

How do you view your current training program, is it a one-time event, or do you continually follow up with your staff?  Do your technicians understand the “why” behind each skill they perform or just the “how”? Does your clinic offer continuing education opportunities to technicians that met their goal of becoming certified? Effective training goes beyond the first 90 days or even the first year, although it is often clear by then if they have the drive necessary to continue learning. Clinic managers should meet with each technician and formulate professional goals that are attainable within the next year even if they have not been through a formal training program. This can help you identify established technicians who may have been overlooked but need further training in specific areas. Ultimately having a formal training program in place saves both time and money investing the time and effort in a newly hired technician from the start of their employment.

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