The Importance of Certification: Strengthening Your Eye Care Team

Published in the July 2008, JCAHPO Eye Lights Newsletter – Following the 2007 publication of the groundbreaking scientific study titled, “A Comparative Study of the Impact of Certified and Non-Certified Ophthalmic Medical Personnel on Practice Quality and Productivity,” leading physicians and researchers established concrete, physical data that illustrates the benefits of certification for ophthalmic personnel. Certified personnel outperformed non-certified personnel in virtually every category of measurement. In the end, the study concluded that an overwhelming four out of five physicians agreed that certified personnel rendered their practice more effective than their non-certified counterparts.

The findings of the study have opened an important dialogue on the value of certification for personnel in the field of ophthalmology. Statistically, the benefits of employing certified personnel cannot be refuted, but for many practices, supporting certified personnel means more than simply giving them a place to work. The career support many practices give to their staff is an establishment of trust and validation of the contributions personnel make to a practice.

Many practices have begun to take important steps to ensure their personnel are both highly trained and highly appreciated. For Suzi Martin, PhD, and the practice team at the Cape Coral Eye Center in Cape Coral, FL, the value of certification is a message they have been actively promoting for over 25 years. Using “Knowledge is Power” as their practice motto, Cape Coral Eye Center has managed to transform the quality of care, practice unity, and overall practice productivity. For the first time in the organization’s 28-year history, 100% of their personnel are JCAHPO-certified. Practice administrators discovered early on that certified staff helped positively shape the image of the practice in the community, and the overall eye care experience patients receive.

“Patients repeatedly tell us that the main reason they keep coming back to Cape Coral Eye Center is because our ophthalmic personnel are highly trained. Technicians and assistants are typically the first encounter patients have with our practice, and if personnel are knowledgeable and well trained, an immediate trust is established between the patient and our practice,” states Martin.

She added that “Knowledge is Power” is an adage they integrated based on patient feedback. In her experience, patients have been overwhelmingly impressed with staff training and certification, to date.

As important as it is to create lasting relationships built on trust with patients, a significant part of practice success can be directly linked to the relationships within the practice. At the end of the day, associations and morale among employees affect future interactions with patients. Practices that foster the development of trust and respect reap the long-term rewards. “We encourage our personnel to invest their time and efforts in training, certification, and on becoming career-minded,” says Martin. “It’s very simple:when they make the effort, we make the effort.” Like many clinics around the country, Cape Coral Eye Center is using certification to get employees excited about a career as a certified ophthalmic assistant or technician. The organization achieves this through several supportive enterprises. They encourage personnel using a staff newsletter to highlight career excellence, framing certification credentials on the practice’s lobby walls, and issuing name tags and pins that denote certification levels. These small actions establish practice-wide pride, and send a message to patients that personnel are passionate, valued, and highly qualified. In the end, simple displays of appreciation and respect have resulted in a more efficient, unified practice. “Now that everyone in the practice is certified at some level, morale is higher than it’s ever been. Most importantly, patients see personnel working hard to maintain certification and they feel safe in the care of trained professionals,” she adds.

The level of morale Martin speaks of is only amplified when a greater percentage of staff are certified. Another added benefit of employing certified personnel is that it creates a level of trust and confidence among all clinical staff. Members of a clinic can work together more constructively because certification is a representation of training and job proficiency. To patients, personnel, and physicians, JCAHPO designation is a mark that carries respect and trust.

The importance of certification for ophthalmic personnel is a message JCAHPO actively promotes. Certified personnel contribute positively to the productivity of a practice and help physicians more effectively manage clinic time and resources. JCAHPO certification guarantees that personnel will have the technical knowledge and training to perform at optimum capacity and positively contribute to the success of a practice. Supporting certification is a way for physicians to demonstrate commitment to their staff and create a professional relationship that benefits the practice, employees, and most importantly, the patient.