Passing the baton

Discussing teamwork and the handover in practice with optometrist and OT  clinical multimedia editor, Ceri Smith-Jaynes

People illustration

The option of part-time working is one of the nice things about optometry, but in order to provide continuity for patients, good communication between all members of the practice team is crucial. The last thing a patient wants to hear is: “I’m sorry, I don’t know; I wasn’t in yesterday.”

So how do you let tomorrow’s staff know that Mrs Carter’s repair is delayed but you couldn’t get through to her on the phone? Some practices will leave a sticky note somewhere or write it on the record and put it in the drawer-of-random-things-to-do. Nonurgent tasks get put by for a quiet day – except it’s never a quiet day and, before you know it, those spectacles have remained uncollected for six months because the patient didn’t answer the first phone call. The more staff you have, the slicker the system needs to be.

Some practices will run WhatsApp groups, email threads, or electronic systems, but in the days of information overload it could be simpler to buy a day-per-page diary and write the task down.

Optometrists and dispensing opticians need to make it clear on the clinical record what was recommended, any advice given, what needs to happen next (for example, referral, dispensing, or return for further tests) and when the patient needs to be recalled for their next eye exam. A good record enables the reception team to handle any queries without having to interrupt the busy clinic to ask for clarification.