William Werner Jr, O.D. is the Regional Director of Professional Services at National Vision, Inc. and practiced optometry in the Kentucky and Indiana areas for close to 5 years. In this article, we will cover the in’s and out’s of becoming an optometrist at National Vision!
Bill, tell us about where your mind was at as a 4th-year optometry student. Where did you think you wanted to end up and what were your goals?
At ICO, we rotated externship sites every three months all around the country. So, the beginning of my 4th year was focused on how I was going to find housing for three months at a time, and how I was going to get to each site. I started pursuing job opportunities early on, roughly November before graduating the following May. My goal was to give myself enough time to explore all my options and have a job lined up before graduation.
Did you intend on working in corporate optometry? What were the three biggest myths you heard about corporate that were immediately proved wrong once you started?
I never had the dream of opening my own practice, so if I went the private practice route, I would have chosen to be employed. When I compared the pros and cons of each modality, in addition to listening to my gut feeling, I knew a corporate setting was where I saw myself succeeding long term. I looked at several corporate environments, and National Vision provided the best opportunity for myself.
The first myth about corporate is that management overwhelms the doctors.
At National Vision, this is simply not the case.
National Vision is a doctor-centric and patient-centric environment. The relationship between management and the doctors is a true partnership and is the key to the success of the offices and happiness of the doctors.
Another myth is that most doctors that go into corporate only use it as a stepping stone before moving on in their career. At National Vision, we have optometric physicians who have been practicing with us for 25+ years. I’m going on six years with the company. National Vision’s goal is to not only have doctors join the family but to join for their career.
Another myth that was quickly proven wrong when I first started working was that I would only refract and not use my other diagnostic skills.
As much as I learned throughout my four years in optometry school, I feel I learned even more during my first year of practicing. I found myself seeing all different types of anterior and posterior segment conditions and was able to manage several of them in our office setting.
Give us an idea of your full work history. Where did you start and what was that timeline like?
- I graduated from ICO in May of 2011 and joined the National Vision doctor network directly out of school. I began work within an office affiliated with the Eyeglass World division in Louisville, KY in July 2011.
- I was there for approximately seven months before transferring to offices affiliated with the America’s Best division in Indiana, where I worked among several offices from March 2012 until August 2016.
- During 2013, I was on the company’s Clinical Panel.
- In January 2015, I became an Area Doctor and held that role until August 2016 when I joined our Professional Services department as a Regional Director/Recruiter.
Tell us about why flexibility was so important to you in your first job.
Coming out of school, I wanted to practice somewhere in the Midwest. However, I didn’t know precisely in what city I wanted to live. Since National Vision has offices in 44 states, I knew that if I started in a precise location and life eventually took me in a different direction and needed to or wanted to move; I’d have the opportunity and be able to continue with the organization.
I also was looking for a job that allowed me to practice how I wanted. While there are layers of support surrounding the doctors within and out of the office, there is no one that tells the doctors how to manage a patient. Our doctors treat and manage patients to their comfort level.
Tell us about what it means to have support in your job. What does that mean to you? Many jobs people are just thrown into work and are not guided. Was your experience different?
As a doctor in our offices, I’ve always felt that there is someone I could reach out to for assistance.
During the first three days that I started seeing patients, I was paired with an Area Doctor who got me acclimated to the office and gave me tips on how to be successful and efficient in our office setting.
None of our doctors are ever thrown into it without this onboarding training.
The Area Doctor is someone our doctors can reach out to for any clinical or office guidance. Our model also has managers in each office, district, and region who are there to support the doctors and be a partner in the success of our offices and the overall patient experience.
Tell us how National Vision provided you with a high growth trajectory. What avenue did you take after patient care and what other avenues were possible within the organization?
National Vision provides multiple opportunities for its doctors to get more involved and also grow within the company. I began my optometric career in 2011 with NVI.
Soon after in 2013, I was named to the Clinical Panel. It is a panel of 10 doctors from around the country who are affiliated with National Vision. The doctors collaborate with one another on various subject matters to better the overall patient experience and care.
In 2015, I was chosen as an Area Doctor for the district. I was the lead doctor for doctors in 12 offices. As an Area Doctor, some of my roles included onboarding new doctors during their first three days, assisting with clinical cases that the doctors may have wanted a second opinion on, and doctor schedules for the offices.
How do various offices operate within the National Vision model and what experiences did you have?
- Most of the optometric opportunities that National Vision provides are employed positions.
- All of the part-time and full-time doctors within America’s Best are employed.
- Eyeglass World and the Vision Centers inside Walmart that NVI operates, provide options as an employed doctor and some lease opportunities for those who have a more entrepreneur mindset.
- Our other brands, Vista Optical inside Fred Meyer and Optical Centers on military bases, are all lease opportunities.
- I’ve worked within our Eyeglass World and America’s Best offices as an employed doctor.
Now let’s put on your recruiting hat. In retrospect and being on the other side of the fence, what do things look like from a high-level overview? What is the single most important piece of information that new ODs should know about working at National Vision?
As an optometrist working in the offices, I always felt like the organization was trying its best to better the profession and care given to the overall population.
Now that I am a recruiter and interact more closely with leaders in our corporate office, I know that the happiness of our doctors is truly a key priority. We are a doctor-centric and patient-centric organization and understand that without our doctors enjoying their career on a daily basis, our patients would not get the care they deserve.
New ODs should know that working at National Vision; the support is unlimited which allows the doctors to practice to their comfort level.
The support contributes to the personal and professional success of the doctors as well as patient experience.
If I were joining as an employee, not as a sublease, what does that process look like from start to end and step-by-step?
A doctor or student who is interested in joining National Vision first begins the discussion with a recruiter for their territory of interest.
After an initial conversation/phone interview, the next step is for the doctor candidate to tour one of our offices with another NVI team member (typically an Area Doctor or District Manager). In some cases, an additional interview with another one of our doctors may occur after the visit.
The recruiter will then contact the doctor candidate again to see how the visit went and to answer any additional questions the candidate may have developed. If at that time the recruiter feels the candidate would be an asset to National Vision and provide exceptional eye care, an offer will be extended.
Once the candidate verbally accepts, a contract is forwarded to the candidate to sign. After signing the contract and before the start date, our corporate support team keeps in close contact to make sure additional documents are processed, including professional liability insurance as well as a background check.
Many new ODs are unfamiliar with the course of obtaining an NPI number, so we provide information on how to do so, to make the process as stress-free as possible.
We also have our own credentialing and managed care teams that work with our doctors each step of the way to ensure all qualifications have been met to be able to practice and see all patients that come into the exam lane. They don’t have to worry about working directly with insurance companies.
National Vision is unique in that we pride ourselves on having contracts that are simple, friendly and easy to understand. They are short in length (4 pages + a cover page), don’t have a non-compete and include an easy-out clause (60 days notice for full-time doctors) in case a doctor needs to terminate the contract.
If I were joining as a sublease, not as an employee, what does that process look like from start to end and step-by-step?
The hiring process is similar to that of a doctor who is joining as an employee.
After starting, while National Vision provides operational support, the doctor has more management responsibilities, including paying rent (% of gross exam revenue), submitting a monthly report, collecting exam fees, and providing billing to insurance companies.
What is the doctor experience like when working at a National Vision location and why should new optometrists consider working at National Vision if they want to jump start their learning experience in both business and clinical optometry?
As a doctor at National Vision, I’ve been able to use all of the skills I acquired in optometry school.
- I’ve refracted simple myopes and hyperopes,
- prescribed 6.00 D of cylinder,
- treated uveitis,
- treated corneal ulcers,
- diagnosed macular holes and retinal detachments,
- referred a 9-year-old with swollen optic nerves immediately to the hospital where later it was determined if he had waited any longer would have lost his vision;
- and have removed several foreign bodies.
Working at National Vision allows the doctors to use their diagnostic skills, manage patients to their comfort level, and focus on patient care only.
This allows for our doctors to leave at the end of the day and not have to worry about the business aspect of running an optometric practice.
However, there are opportunities for those who wish to become more involved in this side of the organization through the Ambassador program, Clinical Panel, or Area Doctor roles.
Coming out of optometry school, all I knew was that I needed to find a job. Little did I know at the time that by joining National Vision, I would be signing up to work for an organization where I foresee myself working for an entire career. Our goal when hiring doctors is not hoping they are interested in just a job but interested in a career. National Vision can provide this opportunity.