Why SCCO optometrists don’t want to do Private Practice

Why don’t future optometrists want to pursue private practice?

Because they realize they’re going to be broke the first few years out of optometry school if they start in private practice. That it’s a big risk, that working 9-5 and then going home sounds sweet after a grueling optometry school curriculum. And then they’re at Costco, or Walmart, or even a big HMO like Kaiser.

Why does this happen?

For the same reason I drove to Subway for lunch today. I’ve got sandwich supplies at home, but I still didn’t make my own sandwich because the thought of cutting up the tomato, getting the lettuce and turkey and mayonnaise to assemble my own sandwich was too great of a barrier to overcome. So instead I spent MORE time and energy driving around to spend more money on a sandwich that isn’t much better than what I could have made with the supplies at home.

I did it because of barriers.

Those that will have the most success in life recognize barriers quickly and ruthlessly tear them down.  Some barriers are obvious like needing a key to open a door, or opening a backpack to get a book. While others are invisible like the fact that not having a pen at my desk is an obstacle when someone calls and I need to jot something down real fast on a scratch piece of paper. Some barriers are helpful like when I want to stop surfing the internet mindlessly instead of studying, I drive to school and study there in the library or lounge.

But the number 1 obstructive barrier for anyone out there is simple. It’s not the local economy, over saturation of optometrists, OMDs, education,  or lack of money. Just look into a mirror.

It’s YOU.

Just as soon as you dream a dream, you start thinking of all the things that could go wrong.

“I can’t make it in Southern California because it’s so saturated.” When you should be saying “what are the things I need to do to overcome this barrier?”

“I can’t afford to go to optometry school.” instead of “how can I afford to go to optometry school?” (wait a minute, I think I read that somewhere in a Kiyosaki book…)

It’s why when I asked my friend about getting into private practice, she doesn’t ask me about where to find one, how to market and sustain it, or how feasible it is in certain locations. She asks “how the heck am I supposed to get a loan to buy one when I have no credit?”

Some people are afraid because they aren’t aggressive enough for private practice, that they have a hard time commanding people. But who says you need to have these traits? In the words of Dr. Paugh in lecture today, “it’s fine to be an introvert!”

How do you know you need to be aggressive to make a sale? Because you see salespeople on TV do it, or at a car dealership?

It’s more important to follow one rule. Really, just one rule.

Do what is best for the patient. If what is best for the patient happens to be more expensive, so be it, but always advocate for this and you will never go wrong when you advocate for what is best for them. If wearing polarized sunglasses while driving in the morning makes it easier to see, I’m recommending it. If wearing AR coating lets more light reach pass the lenses, I’m recommending it.

In the end, if you want to get from A to Z, don’t keep creating all these mental barriers that stop you from doing something even before you’ve started. If you want something, set a goal and go for it. I know I will, so good luck to the both of us.


  1. “Why don’t future optometrists want to pursue private practice?

    Because they realize they’re going to be broke the first few years out of optometry school if they start in private practice.”

    I think that this statement is generalizing to a mindset of those who WISH to do private practice. There are many other reasons an optometrist may not want to pursue private practice, not all inclusively: they want to work at a hospital (or community clinic, etc.), they want to be an educator, or perform research, they do not want to own and/or run a business, they see their career as a distance second to something like raising children.

    Just thought I’d throw my hat into the ring. Have a great day!

  2. Bob, you are 100% correct! Certainly not an all-inclusive list of reasons not to enter private practice. My thing I’d like to add.

    I think you can do research, teach, and have plenty of time for your family if you create the practice you ultimately want. Just a thought to chew on =)

  3. I agree that if owning a practice was your #1 priority (or a very close #2), you could certainly build a practice taking those secondary ideals into account. I’m sure most PP owners attempt to shape their practice around what is important to them (i.e. taking vacations, having a family, making money, etc.) It would likely take a lot of time and, in many of the mentioned instances in my previous post, would not provide as good an experience as other modalities.

    Your view of the world seems to come through a lens of wanting to achieve through private practice. There are so many other ways to practice optometry that are decidedly superior in many aspects compared to private practice ownership, depending on your goals, just as PP is superior in other ways.

    I agree with you that if private practice is an individual’s goal, they are best off setting their lives up to achieve that goal which may including sacrificing a decent wage early. I am here to say that if private practice is not your primary goal, THAT IS OK!

    For the record: I am not a fan of most corporate optometry. I think it is bad for patients and bad for eye care. Just because a market CAN exist does not mean that it SHOULD. I’m sure many patients are happy with their quick refraction, decline the DFE, then buy some of the newest Luxottica frames. This situation IMO is analogous to going to the dentist, getting a cleaning to get fresh feeling teeth, and refusing the dental exam and X-Rays. Every-so-often it is IMPORTANT to let someone check those teeth, and optometry must INSIST on checking the health of individuals AT THE VERY LEAST with a DFE every 5 years (based on AOA and ophtho guidelines). This can be nearly impossible in some corporate settings and it needs to stop.

    To the students who might read this: your school can force-feed you only so much information. Like anything else in life you will get back out of school what you put in, but not much more than that. This is your CAREER. Think about how much time it has taken to get to this point and realize that if you put in serious and focus work NOW you will reap the benefits perhaps the rest of your life. If you have a negative attitude about your school, or a teacher, or a class: YOU will be the one to miss out on an opportunity.

    Good luck Than, I wish you all the best!

  4. Bob, just wanted to thank you for the insightful and excellent comment. I particularly like your comment that you will only get out what you put in. Very true!

    Private practice is not for everyone and certainly can be a tremendous mistake if you do not understand what you are getting yourself into. It requires a lot of thoughtful introspection before making the leap and can absolutely the wrong path for you if you are not inclined to running your own business.

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