Much has been written about Millennials, those of us born between 1982 and 2002, in how to attract and keep us as patients. But what about attracting Millennial ODs as associates?

I am a freelance optometrist in California, seven years in practice, and I also have been a full-time associate OD. In that time, I have developed the following checklist for evaluating employment opportunities.

Online Reviews
When thinking of joining a new practice, I first look at online reviews on Yelp. I do not always judge the practice by these surface impressions, but it’s a good place to start when you have never been to an office.

What patients have to say about their experiences says a lot about a practice. Not all reviews are representative of how an office operates, but you can see patterns that may indicate a problem, such as online reviews consistently noting long wait times, or frequent mentions of unfriendly staff. I also Google the owner-doctor to see how patients feel about their exams.

One office I applied to had six reviews only, and four were awful, but were also from years ago. I couldn’t take the reviews seriously because they were so outdated and so few. I ended up working at that practice for five years, and helped them promote use of Yelp to patients, so their reviews would be more current and positive.

Patient Flow
After reading online reviews, I always schedule a working interview. This is important to find out if the office will match your style of practicing. If, after spending the day practicing in an office, I realize it’s not for me, there usually are no hard feelings if I decide not to come back. Working interviews are paid, with the rate negotiated between applicant-OD and practice.

I recently started working at a new practice a few times a month, and I was not happy with the flow of patients.

I felt like I was unable to connect, and give my best optometric guidance, with the large number of patients scheduled. For that reason, I politely declined the offer of a full-time position. There is nothing wrong with a practice that chooses to see a large volume of patients. I respect that mode of practice, but I know it’s not a good fit for me.

A working interview also is helpful from the practice’s perspective. It gives the practice a chance to see if the doctor is able to connect with patients, and how well the doctor gets along with the other doctors and support staff. Key questions to ask about a prospective associate or freelance OD: How knowledgeable is the doctor about products? Can the doctor handle the office and patients when the managing doctor is not there? And, importantly, does the prospective associate treat the practice as their own?

Salary Potential
I set my own per diem. I usually do not budge. It is important for doctors to know their worth, and not settle for less. If an office is not willing to meet our pay standards, then most of us feel it’s OK to move on to other options. I usually ask for a bonus structure, as well. I want the practice owner to feel like I am contributing to production.

Bonuses help motivate us. I find myself educating patients more about spectacle lens upgrades at offices that offer a bonus structure.

For example, an arrangement could be made in which bonuses for associates are given for days the office makes over $3,000 in production. For instance, $3,000 in production practice-wide would mean a $50 bonus for the associate, and every $250, the bonus goes up another $50.

Schedule Flexibility
I used to work weekends for many years. However, when I got married, I noticed I wasn’t able to spend much time with my husband, so I made the decision to only work four days a week. At that point in my career, I knew I had a lot to offer the offices I worked at, so I asked for a raise to compensate the lost day. In the end, it worked out great, and I feel refreshed after my weekends. It may be harder to find jobs that are only weekdays, but for me, it’s worth it.


is a freelance optometrist in California, who has also gained expertise in social media marketing. To contact:


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My office, a four-doctor practice in Cary, N.C., is dominated by Millennial patients, those born between 1982 and 2002. That means we’ve had to put thought into creating the kind of office that appeals to these young patients. 

We’ve had to understand what makes the Millennial patient different from patients of older generations, and the type of office environment they are likely to appreciate, return to for care and refer others to experience.

I’m a Millennial myself, and my staff is almost entirely Millennials, age 25-37, so we know from first-hand experience the kind of office environment that is likely to appeal to people our age.

Equip Exam Rooms with Large Screens for Patient Education
I have used iPad technology for charting in my exam room before, but have found having large desktop monitors to be better technology for Millennial patient education. We use multiple large screens to pull up high-quality images of retinal scans and meiboiman gland imaging for patient education, and it lets me review their prescriptions easily with them.

Millennials are invested in their personal care; they want to know what you changed and what you are writing in their chart. There is no diagnosis or concept that they feel is too complicated for them to understand, and they expect complete transparency. Large screens that they can easily see from the exam chair give them that feeling of being surrounded by state-of-the-art technology that they are actively a part of; not just me typing into a chart they can’t see.

Offer Free Wi-Fi in Office
We have free WiFi, but to protect patient records, we have two separate accounts. We have a public WiFi access that patients can utilize, and a separate private WiFi account for staff and doctors that is password-protected. This protects us from the threats of viruses or potential identity theft issues, while still letting our patients enjoy a wireless internet connection, and have the experience they expect in a high-technology office.

Tell Patients Why They Should Buy from You: Technology & Value
Millennials are not shy to tell you they are buying online and they need you to supply the PD. There is no sense of shame in purchasing from outside your office, and they expect you to give them everything they need to do so. Instead of bashing Warby Parker, or other online stores, I explain how what I offer in my office differs from what an online retailer is able to offer.

I let them know that online stores don’t usually offer the kind of doctor-patient exchange that leads to pinpointing and prescribing the kind of technology we just discussed during their exam: the anti-fatigue lenses to combat their tired eyes, the blue-blocker glare coatings and tinted lenses to reduce their light sensitivity and frequent headaches, the low prism I showed them to relax their eye muscles. I usually say something like, “I understand having an inexpensive back-up pair that you don’t mind throwing around in a suitcase, or scratching up, but for the glasses you wear to work every day, you need much better technology if you want to your eyes seeing and feeling their best.”

Talking about all these new lens technologies in the exam takes a lot of chair time, but if I’m not offering them state of the art lens technology, then why would I expect them to think there is a difference between my glasses and Warby Parker’s? You have to prescribe and educate the difference for them to understand your glasses aren’t the same.
Dr. Lyerly says the type of “capsule” marketing shown in the above picture is more effective at marketing to Millennials than a traditional frame board display.

Go from Frame Board to “Capsule”
We continually update the appearance of our optical to provide an attractive shopping experience. A clinical feel with racks of frame boards? Not what Millennials are looking for. You can tell by the clothing stores, restaurants and craft breweries (the epitome of how Millennials spend more for products they think are better quality), they spend money for the aesthetic that best captures and engages their interest.

We are working to turn traditional frame boards into capsules of brand stories where patients can get an idea of each frame line’s identity – what makes them different, where they are made and what social message they have. We want to present high-quality frames with a high-quality aesthetic, so right away when you enter the optical you can tell what’s inside is much nicer than what they can expect from discount stores or online warehouses.

The message is quality, performance, craftsmanship and technology right when you walk in, and before you even try on a frame!

Be Selfie-Friendly
We also want to make an environment where people want to take pictures and selfies. Bright lighting, clean lines, a coffee station, a bar height optical table – this is how we create a visual environment that a patient wants to share on their social media accounts. Nothing is better advertising than when a patient tags us in a post that they want to share with their friends, bragging about the frames or the experience they just had in our office.


Jennifer Lyerly, OD, is an associate at Triangle Visions Optometry in Cary, N.C. To contact her:


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