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Group provides guidance on developing office manuals

November 21, 2011

Every optometric practice should create and maintain an office manual to provide clear and consistent policies and procedures for all staff members.

Such a resource should contain everything from how sick days are handled to how the practice places contact lens orders. 

The more details that can be articulated in a manual, the easier it will be for doctors and staff to deliver the kind of customer service the practitioner expects. 

Putting policies and procedures in writing also aids in training new staff members and addressing staff problems before they occur.

Getting started is probably the most difficult part. Perhaps the easiest method is to open a blank Microsoft Word document and start typing the various rules of the office.

Often, recent staff problems in the practice can be a prompt for a new policy or procedure one may wish to add to a manual.

It is also possible to delegate portions of the manual to others. Having staff members type up detailed instructions for how they perform their daily tasks will quickly produce text that can be incorporated into the office manual.

If starting from scratch seems daunting, some practioners may prefer to start with an office manual template.

There are several textbooks that provide manuals specific to optometric offices, and most include an electronic version that allows the practitioner to open the sample manual in Microsoft Word. From there, one can add and delete text to customize the existing manual to the practice. 

One such example would be the Eyecare Practice Tool Kit available through Mosby Elsevier.

The topics included in the office manual should be specific to the office. However, the following content areas are generally included:

  • Mission of the practice
  • Job descriptions
  • New employee information
  • Personnel policies and guidelines
  • Conditions of employment
  • Employee benefits
  • Office policies
  • Office procedures

Pracitioners should be sure to include details such as health insurance, dress codes, work schedules, overtime, maternity leaves, and employment termination.   

The Career Advocate for the New Practioner resources available at www.aoa.org/careeradvocate also provide some helpful information for creating an optometric office manual.

Beware of being too specific in the policies or job descriptions sections of the office manual.  It may be difficult for a very specific rule to be applied beyond that one situation. 

By using terminology such as “included but not limited to the following” or “examples such as,” practioners will grant themselves more flexibility in enforcing the policies of their office manuals. 

Office manuals are considered legal documents, so practitioners will need to implement exactly the policies they create.

Lastly, there will always be a need to create new policies or procedures as time passes.

Practitioners will need to tweak the wording of existing information to keep it current. An office manual that is out of date will not be used effectively.

Get started on an optometric office manual today. The finished product will promote an excellent working environment in one’s practice.

For information on AOA practice management resources, visit www.aoa.org/PracticeAdvancement.

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