Dear COTP Members:
As this academic year is in its home stretch, I am once again amazed at how fast time is flying by. It feels like yesterday that I was interviewing my current students and now I am planning their graduation.
I was asked by a senior member of our hospital recently where our past graduates currently are. As we are a fairly new program, I know exactly where they all are. I told him we have hired our first four and the next two are working in private practices. He then asked why we were training ophthalmic technicians and ophthalmic medical technologists to work in outside offices who are essentially competitors to what we do at this hospital.
At the time, I was unable to provide him with an answer and the conversation naturally moved on. Since then, though I have been thinking about his question and I have been asking my own, slightly less short-sighted question: What is our true purpose for training ophthalmic medical personnel (OMP)?
Here are a few of my reasons:
- I love being an ophthalmic medical technologist and I want to share what I know.
- I love to teach.Training programs are good for the centers that house them.
- We need well-trained ophthalmic personnel to fill the increasing demand for eye care.
All of my reasons are sound and may reflect your own. But only the last one is a true reason to continually graduate OMP and although I believe this, I do not have any hard facts to support this increasing demand. Why didn’t we hire our first six graduates? Because there are no more open positions here. So, does this supposed demand really exist?
This brings up the same question I was asked before: Is it a bad thing to train OMP and not keep them in-house? I will come back to this.
I was in a Grand Rounds presentation this morning when the very knowledgeable speaker gave an eye opening talk on “Vision for Ontario”. He covered how reimbursements are going down and how the government is not increasing funding to hospitals. The result is we all have to see more patients year to year, but with the same number of staff (sometimes a decrease in staff). He made a specific point about how ophthalmologists need the help of well-trained OMP to keep up with the demand and to continue delivering safe eye care. This discussion answered my questions.
Yes, I believe the demand for quality safe eye care is increasing in an environment with fewer resources.
Yes, I believe OMP do and will continue to play a major role in delivering this eye care.
No, it is definitely not a bad thing to train OMP then send them outside of our walls. We, as ophthalmic educators are training OMP for the betterment of eye care in general and not just for our own clinics. We as ophthalmic educators are training OMP to fill new positions (when they come up) and to fill current positions left vacant through attrition. It is our new graduates who will work alongside experienced OMP, learn from them and continue the work we have all been part of for our own careers. It is our graduates who will, one day, be looking after us.
So… What is our true purpose for training ophthalmic medical personnel (OMP)? The answer is clear to me now. We must continue training. Keep up the fantastic work you are doing.
I am looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas in November for the annual COTP meeting! If you have any suggestions or topics for discussion for COTP, please feel free to contact me.
Craig Simms, COMT, CDOS, ROUB, COP