For about six months, Bianca Augustino, OD, had a very long commute. A 2018 graduate of Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry, Dr. Augustino had decided she wanted to settle and work in Raleigh, North Carolina. However, her graduation date prevented her from sitting for the spring state board exams, so she had to wait until February’s exam offering.
Despite this, she did have a license to practice in New York, so she filled in for practices there about 10 days a month. “I started commuting. I’d book an Airbnb and fill in as much as I could during those 10 days. The other 20 days of the month I’d be back in Raleigh, looking for future opportunities.”
This time gave her tremendous opportunities to learn. She worked in ophthalmology practices, private optometry practices, other corporate-affiliated practices, as well as in locations where patients didn’t speak English. For these patients, she used a translator for exams. “Every day was different. I didn’t know if I was going to see glaucoma patients or perform refractions all day, and I didn’t know the staff. It taught me a lot,” she says.
Dr. Augustino also made some connections with private practices near her home that seemed promising; however, agreements fell through in two cases when conversations turned serious. She then decided to take a chance on Premier Pathways, a new Premier Program offering that matches private practice doctor-owners with new ODs entering the industry. It was because of Premier Pathways that David Holler, OD, of Clarity Vision called her. Initially, she told him she wasn’t going to start looking for a job until after she passed her boards. Even so, she sat down and had coffee with him, and the two discussed the private practice environment in the state and more. Before the board scores were released, Dr. Holler called her back. “Come in for six days; I’ll pay you per diem, and you can get a feel for what the practice is like,” he told her.
That was a smart move. Once she passed her boards, she began to get attractive offers from practitioners who hadn’t previously returned her calls. “I ultimately chose to stay with Clarity Vision. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Holler. He and Ashley Powell, OD, treated me like we’re all equal,” she says. She works full-time in the practice while the other ODs work two or three days a week.
A full appointment book
Often, new associates come into the office to find a relatively clear appointment book and are told to reach out to the community to fill it. This hasn’t been her case. “My schedule is always full, and it has been since the very beginning. I even asked, ‘How am I getting all these patients?’ There had been little marketing to announce that I was joining the practice,” she says.
Dr. Augustino found that it’s partially the result of being a Premier Program practice. When VSP Vision Care patients look at the doctor-locator on vsp.com, practices that are a part of the Premier Program are identified with a special orange banner. When they called the practice, they were able to get an appointment quickly, and the payoff was her full schedule. “I’ve had front desk staff members tell me that they’ve never seen an associate’s book fill up as quickly as mine did,” she says.
The range of experiences that she had when she was doing fill-in work in New York have also helped her be more streamlined. “I can read if a patient is a straightforward comprehensive exam or if we need to spend a little more time discussing a condition,” she says. By keeping the process as efficient as possible, she has the room to dedicate those extra minutes to the patients who need it.
Building patient base
Overall, the practice benefits from getting new patients through the door. Those who need eye care services beyond a refraction are likely to return to the practice for their care. The optical stays busy with patients who want to leverage their VSP Vision Care plan with the excellent value that the plan provides to them, including savings on additional pairs of eyewear.
Dr. Augustino says that she appreciates the education she has received through the VSP Vision Care provider email. “It’s nice to have a portal for this information where I can learn more about the business of optometry. When I see an article synopsis or headline about a topic I don’t know well, it’s great that I can read it and learn as I’m going.”