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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ryan Corte

What's the Best Optometry Mode of Practice? | 9 Optometry Practice Settings Compared

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

What's the best optometry mode of practice?

In this video, I share nine optometry practice settings for optometrists to consider.

I've practiced in a number of different practice modalities including private, corporate sublease, OD/MD, VAMC, non-profit, and academia.

The truth is, there is no perfect optometry practice setting. However, there is a best optometry practice setting for each individual optometrist.

Here are 7 clinical and 2 non-clinical modes of practice for you to consider.

1) Private practice optometry

When you own your own private practice, you can control your own destiny. You are in complete control of the patient experience and the care that you provide. You’re running your own small business, helping support the local community and economy.

The optometrists that do best in private practice tend to be forward-thinking, self-starters that have some business intuition and are lifelong learners. The best private practices learn from their peers and join professional alliance groups to decrease their cost of goods and increase their ability to compete in a competitive marketplace.

In recent years, more and more private practices have sold to venture capital groups, making the landscape more competitive. Building your own private practice isn't an easy route but it's certainly a rewarding one.

2) Corporate sublease optometry

A corporate sublease is where you sublease office space from a corporation that you're in partnership with.

A huge advantage of this modality is that the space, equipment, and support for the equipment are covered in your sublease agreement. Also, you can leverage the power of a larger corporation's marketing budget to help drive new patients to your office. Personally, I like to think of it as running a private practice without an optical.

On the other hand, taking on a corporate sublease typically includes evening, weekend, and holiday hours. You won’t have the ability to sell glasses and, in most cases, contact lenses. As a result, you’re not in complete control of how or when your business operates.

Both private practices and sublease practices have doctors that work directly for optometrists running their own small businesses.

3) Corporate employed optometry

Optometrists that work in a corporate-employed setting are employees of a larger corporation. These companies often have broad organizational hierarchies that manage all that goes into running the corporation.

As I reference before, there has been an increase in corporate optometry opportunities because venture capital groups are buying existing private practices across the country. This has been a viable exit strategy for seasoned private practice doctors.

Optometrists in this setting can truly focus on clinical care and don't have to worry about the day-to-day operations of running a business. However, they over have individual patient volume and sales metrics they’re asked to meet my management.

Opportunities to grow within corporate organizations tend to be leadership roles, some clinical and some non-clinical.

4) OD/MD (optometry/ophthalmology) practice setting

Optometrists that enjoy comanaging advanced medical eye care should consider working in an OD/MD practice setting. Here optometrists work cohesively with ophthalmologists to manage ocular disease and surgery.

If you opt to join this setting, make sure to join a group that respects optometrists and allows you to practice at the highest level. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many optometrists treated like glorified technicians in this setting. This is something you clearly want to avoid!

While most optometrists that work in OD/MD practices are employees, a few have the benefit of being a partner.

5) Hospital-based optometry

Optometrists who practice in hospital-based practices are employees of large medical facilities.

While there tend to be more protocols and medical regulations, access to the tools and resources of a hospital certainly has its privileges.

6) VAMC optometry (veterans affairs optometry)

Optometrists that work at a VAMC have the honor and pleasure of serving our nation's veterans.

In this practice setting, optometrists are able to practice at a very high level and are able to treat and manage advanced eye disease.

As government employees, these optometrists have flexible schedules and get incredible benefits.

If you want to work in a VAMC, consider doing an optometric residency at the VA. This will help you get your foot in the door and grow comfortable with their system.

7) Optometry academia

if you're someone who wants to opportunity to teach and foster the development of future optometrists, you should look into a career in academia.

The vast majority of optometrists that work in academia see patients as precepting ODs. They also perform research, teach classes, run laboratories, and complete administrative work for the optometry school.

Academia is a really cool way for you to give back to the profession by helping develop optometrists of the future. Plus, like VAMC ODs, their schedules are flexible and their benefits are great.

8) Optometry research

Optometrists that perform full-time research often work for industry or an academic institution. They help move our profession forward by researching eye care products, treatments, and diseases.

This is a unique opportunity and something to consider if you don’t feel like providing direct patient care and are interested in digging deep into the developments that are moving the profession forward. Plus, like VAMC ODs, their schedules are flexible and their benefits are great.

9) Optometry industry (eye care industry)

Optometrists that work for industry support the products, services, and companies that move optometry forward. From professional development and sales to recruiting and training, there are a lot of awesome roles for optometrists in the eye care industry.

Often these ODs are at various optometry meetings and have a significant impact on how eye care companies support the profession of optometry. Plus, like VAMC ODs, their schedules are flexible and their benefits are great.

Final thoughts

I just went through a number of different practice modalities that optometrists can work within. If you're a pre-optometry student, an optometry student, new graduate OD, I highly recommend that you explore all of your career options! While none of them are perfect, they’re all wonderfully unique.

What's your favorite optometry practice setting? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my next video where we can reflect and grow stronger together.

If you liked this YouTube video, subscribe to my channel for more personal development and thought-provoking videos!

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