“Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” -Colin Powell
s physicians, excellence is constantly assumed and ex-
pected. It begins in our early premedical years and con-
tinues to be demanded throughout medical school and
postgraduate training. Once we take those next steps
into practice, we continue to pursue excellence. We have
arrived, achieved our goal, yes?
I have learned over my years that excellence is not
confined to personal achievements or clinical acumen, but, by
necessity, includes those around us who assist in the daily care of
our patients. Whether you are in a hospital setting, a group, or like
myself, a solo practice, you must depend on a myriad of others with
whom you work to ensure that patients receive the very best care
they seek. Over the near 25 years in my practice, I am reminded
of and appreciate the importance of having top-notch office staff
who share in setting the bar for excellence each and every day. Let
me provide some examples.
our electronic health record system, continued management and
training of employees, development of social media, and most
importantly, assuring that I maintain my sanity! I am so proud
that my staff recognizes the importance of excellence, led each
day by the examples set by these two ladies. They continue their
own medical professional development and are champions for our
patients. My other current office staff members see the value in
continuing education as nearly everyone has achieved some type
of advanced certification.
In the changing environment of medicine, physician practices
are being acquired by hospital systems and even private equity
companies. Colleagues have shared their frustration and the impact
this has had on their employees as these new controlling entities
often have markedly different managerial approaches and might not
understand the culture of the current group. When our day-to-day
caregivers who assist in our patient care are upended, maintaining
excellence can be a significant challenge.
When I opened my practice in 1996, I hired an employee, Ms.
Debbie Tharp. Debbie had been a medical technician with a lo-
cal internal medicine practice; however, she had no ophthalmic
experience. Obviously, being a very small operation at the time, I
was able to work closely with Debbie to train her in the manner I
preferred. She quickly took to the patients and ultimately extended
her qualifications, becoming a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant. She
has trained the majority of my technicians over these many years
and now is our primary contact for surgical scheduling, focusing
on the patients’ pre- and post-op needs, making them feel at ease
with what can be assuredly a daunting process. There are more obstacles to delivering excellent patient care
than any time in recent memory. It is our obligation to circle our
wagons and find ways to overcome these barriers. We must support
the Debbies and the Nickis and the entire care team who work hard
each day to achieve superb care of our patients. Even though we
may feel overwhelmed and even limited in our abilities, we must
pursue the ultimate goal.
My office manager, Ms. Nicki Greenwell, started with us over
17 years ago. She came into the practice as a receptionist, trained
and certified as a technician and eventually moved into the billing
office. In 2011, when the current office manager wished to pursue
a different career, I asked Nicki if she would step into that position.
After some thought, she accepted, and since that time she has guided
my office through numerous transitions, including conversion to Dr. Burns is a private practice ophthalmologist. His practice is located in Middletown,
KY under the name of Middletown Eye Care.
So, what should the prevailing attitude be? Accept nothing less
than excellence, from ourselves and our health care coworkers. This
attitude will reflect our leadership and leadership begins with us. It
takes the entire village.