Working for an Independent vs Multiple Optometrists
A big decision for a pre-reg or newly qualified optometrist is whether to work for multiple vs independent optician.
Multiples are typically large or national chain opticians with well-know brand names like Boots or Spec Savers. Independent opticians include small regional chains that offer a vital service for any local High Street.
Both of these High Street retail settings require the same mix of optometry knowledge and customer skills. However, the working experience can be as different as oranges and apples.
So, in a comparison of independent vs multiple what are the pros and cons for a budding optometrist?
Working for an independent optometrist
Slower-paced: Independent opticians sometimes have a slower-paced feel. They often have fewer patients on their database but typically longer eye test appointments. But that also means each appointment is more customer-service focused so by no means less work.
Patients not sales: Despite needing to sell frames and services to make money, independent opticians are likely to be less sales-focused and rarely have daily targets. Good customer experience is often the best way to sell anyway and that starts with putting the patient’s health first.
A place for ambition: If you want to one day own your own optometrists, then working in an independent is for you. Independent owners will have the same drive and focus that you’ll need. Chances are you’ll have a similar work ethic.
Technology pioneers: Independent optometrists are often the first to try new techniques or technologies. They may not have the budgets that multiples do, but being smaller means they are more agile when it comes to progress.
Role diversity: Working in smaller teams means your skillset will be more of a generalist optometrist. But also, you’ll get to do a variety of non-clinical jobs – such as marketing – as the need arises.
Antiquated processes: It’s possible for smaller practices to become insular. With less optical staff turnover and a loyal customer base, there may be no reason to change. An independent opticians without electronic patients records isn’t unheard of.
Less likely to offer pre-reg training: Because of time, space and funding restraints, independent opticians are less likely to offer pre-reg training.
Technology museum: So independents can be both pioneers and Luddites when it comes to tech (although probably not in the same shop). Want to be an old-school optometrist? You can probably find an independent optician that will satisfy your need (if you look hard enough).
Potentially longer hours: Independent optometrists have to put the hours in to compete with the multiples. There are legal limits on hours worked per week for an employee. However, the owner of an independent – as with any small business owner – is likely to work long hours.
Working for a multiple/chain optometrist
Bigger teams: When working for a multiple, you’ll have colleagues to share your day with. The team will often have a greater variety of experience levels. So it’s a great place to learn (or mentor) as well.
Specialisation: Working for a bigger team means more scope for a specialism such as domiciliary care or management roles.
Offer pre-reg training: Most pre-reg placements will be found working for a multiple or chain optician. This is because they probably have space and staffing capacity to help train the next generation of optometrists.
Funding/technology: Multiples have the finance to access the latest optical tech. Rolling out changes in equipment across a nationwide chain can be slow, however.
Streamlined processes across different stores: Larger chains means processes are often efficient and optimised. Plus, if you’ve worked in one branch you’ll be able to work in any branch.
Can be very sales-driven: It’s no secret that working for multiples means working in a fast-paced retail environment. Sales targets are daily and may feel like they compromise patient care.
Large database of customers: Where the independent offer personal service, the multiple offers convenience. Test appointments are shorter but there is less continuity between the patient and which optom they see.
Daunting for newly-qualified: Even if you’re supremely confident in your optometry skills, working in a high-demand retail environment can be daunting – especially for new optometrists. You’re a healthcare professional and not a salesperson, right?
Worse patient care: A Which? investigation in 2017 used an expert panel to review the quality of eye tests in multiples and independents. All the independent (and small regional chain) stores received “Satisfactory” or “Good” ratings. However, the multiples included eye tests rated as “Unsatisfactory” by the expert panel. The mistakes included unsafe prescriptions and a lack of glaucoma testing where relevant.
Independent vs Multiple
There are benefits of working for both independent vs multiple opticians. And the differences allow for optoms to gain experience and grow in a way that suits the individual.
Remember that everyone has their’ “worst job” story. If you listened to all those anecdotes you’d probably change profession.
Working as a Locum Optom allows you to experience all the benefits of both independents and multiples for yourself – without having to change jobs. Explore who you are as an optometrist be becoming a locum today.
My Locum Choice is here to help you on your locum journey. Whether you are thinking about locum work or you’re a seasoned pro, My Locum Choice is the friendly locum optom agency for you. We offer great advice and trusted service. So, check out the best locum shifts available through the MLC app today.
This article was written on behalf of My Locum Choice by Nicola Hasted from Pharmacy Mentor.