When Christina Murray, OD, a 2016 graduate of Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, was still in school, she skipped events hosted by large optometric corporations. “I wanted nothing to do with corporate optometry,” she says. But it was a quiet voice that ultimately got her attention. A friend had gone to work within the National Vision, Inc., Doctor of Optometry network and encouraged her to consider all of her options. “That was the first person who told me what it was actually like to practice in an office in the America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses setting.”
As she asked more questions, she determined that she could see herself working happily in this setting. She joined the Boynton Beach office of South Florida Regional Eye Associates, an independent medical practice with multiple locations within America’s Best stores throughout southern Florida.
In addition to working at several locations, she served on the clinical advisory panel, where she helped to rewrite the technician manual. She has also become an ambassador, sharing her own story with students. “I’d say the biggest concern that most students have is that they fear they’re going to be overwhelmed by the number of patients they’ll be required to see,” Dr. Murray says.
“When you are accustomed to seeing four patients a day at clinic and you hear rumors of what patient load in corporate might be like, that’s scary.” She sees it as her role to tell students what a typical day is really like.
“Typical,” however, might be oversimplifying it. There are similarities to each day, especially in the way they start and end. “I don’t
start work until 9:30, so I enjoy my mornings without feeling rushed,” she says. And at the end of each day, she closes out her final patient chart and goes home. “I don’t miss lunch or have to stay late to catch up on paperwork,” she says.
The processes and staff in the office are designed to support the volume of patients who come through. “On some days I might
see 10 patients, while on others I see more, but the patient load is always manageable for me. I view it as the more patients I care for, the bigger the impact I make on my community,” she says.
Focused on patient care
She also feels that she has the time needed with each of these patients. “Some days, I have mostly healthy young adults who simply need an updated prescription” she says.
Yet it’s more common that she finishes exams and needs to tell patients that they have an ocular health issue that needs attention. “I’ve seen everything here: corneal ulcers, glaucoma suspects, retinal detachments and suspected tumors. We’ve also been able to catch binocular vision disorders and help those patients find the solutions they need.”
It should be unsurprising that patients visiting corporate locations have ocular issues at the same prevalence as the population at large. “When an OD sees the volume that we do here, we might even see these issues more frequently,” she says. She practices to the point where she’s comfortable and refers patients to other specialists as necessary.
For example, she recalls one 22-year-old patient who came to her last year complaining of visual fatigue and blur. Her initial refraction showed nothing wrong, but a cycloplegic refraction showed that the young woman had undiagnosed amblyopia with a +3.00D prescription. “She came in for her follow-up visit, and the change was incredible. She had gone from being on the verge of dropping out of school to being a successful student,” she says. “I was able to take care of everything for her here and improve her life.”
Experiences like this result in a high level of patient loyalty—another point that surprises many outside of the network. “I have patients who will drive 20 miles to see me, depending on which office I’m working in. It’s flattering when patients find a doctor whom they like and will seek out. In the end, I know that I made the right choice for me in deciding where to practice.”