Imagine to yourself a real-life important person: a real VIP. It’s up to you who this person is. For the sake of imagination, make it big. Could this VIP be someone on the world stage—perhaps a president, a king or queen? Perhaps a great entertainer, like Elvis, Sinatra, or Liberace? Perhaps the Pope, the wealthiest person alive, the top General of the Armed Forces, or our best Nobel Prize-winning scientist.
OK, now imagine this most important person, this real VIP, wants an eye examination because they are experiencing an unusual vision disturbance.
Could you perform their eye exam? Of course you could. Now decide what kind of an eye exam it would be. Well, that’s easy, just like everyone else’s. Or is that the truth? Would you give the most high-level eye exam in your capabilities? What about the time spent? How many minutes? Would you dilate? Would you perform binocular testing, phorias, compensating vergences, ocular photos, biomicroscopy, evaluate for dry eye, and perform perimetry? Would you take the time to test for computer distances and explain the benefits of computer glasses? What about sunglasses to protect the VIP’s eyes? Would you be able to perform the eye examination for this highly-important person at the level you’d like to? If not, why not?
And more importantly, why can’t everyone, everyone down to the last person you know, have the eye examination you just wanted to provide?
My point here is that we are better than we are. Our desire to provide the highest-quality eye care, consistent with our capabilities and knowledge, probably exceeds what we are currently providing. There are reasons for that, and those reasons start within ourselves.
In my own experience, I remember being frustrated with the care I provided my elderly patients early in my practice. I stopped prescribing them dietary supplements because their managed care plan openly discouraged it, and I didn’t want to be confrontational for fear of losing my panel position. Thankfully, eye vitamins are considered more of a standard of care these days, but it still bothers me how I compromised patient care for a time because I didn’t want to buck the system.
There is a concept in personality psychology called “locus of control”—individuals have either an external or internal locus of control. Those with an external locus of control tend to believe that outside forces, like luck or fate or the actions of others, are the driving factors in their lives. For example, someone with an external locus of control might say, “It’s the government’s fault,” or “You can’t fight city hall,” or “My college wasn’t prestigious enough,” or “It’s all about how much money you have.” Those with an internal locus of control tend to believe they themselves are the masters of their destiny, and that their own effort and abilities are the reason for their successes. Someone with an internal locus of control might say, “I know it’s up to me,” or “I have to learn how to become more successful,” or “I am responsible for what happens in my practice,” or “I learn from my mistakes.”
Many studies have linked an internal locus of control to better work performance and higher career satisfaction. Most psychologists agree overall that an internal locus of control is more preferable and more adaptive. Certainly, there are advantages to employing both outlooks, and there are instances when all control is definitively out of our hands. But because the internal type is more advantageous, we can all benefit from paying closer attention to where our personal locus of control is pointing. If it’s outward all the time, we can try to nudge it inward.
Think about how you want to practice optometry down to the very eye examinations you are providing to your VIP’s and loved ones. Think about being in control of your own career. Think about staying interested in your own career. We are better than we are.
With that none-too-subtle note, I will remind our members that COA Legislative Day is an event that I truly believe every California OD should experience, at least once in their lifetime! I’ve found it to be an empowering, positive experience for my own career, and well worth the effort. Consider making the trip to Sacramento to spend some quality time visiting with our elected officials and talking about the important optometric issues of the day. The COA makes this easy on us by providing a morning of personal coaching and individual talking points. We then take it from there, and make the day great. If you participated in Legislative Day this year, the Society says “Thank you.” If you missed it, there’s always next year. Hope to see you there!